Sunday, January 30, 2011


It's sort of been a day of frustrated plans.  Of course the day I'd planned to go to the zoo with Amanda and then take someone else to a biergarten would be the one rainy day in weeks.  But more than with my own frivolity being thwarted, my thoughts are with my brother, who today made the decision to leave Cairo, where he's been living and studying Arabic.  Although I cannot WAIT to hear that he's made it out of the country (his apartment is within a mile of some of the most intense protesting), I know it's got to be disappointing, having moved out of his apartment in the US, sold his car, paid for his tuition and living expenses in Egypt, etc., to be coming back to the US, at least temporarily.  (edit 1/31: Now he's considering staying...)

If rainy weather is good for anything, it's for soup.  I will avoid the seemingly inevitable puns that LA restaurants seem to require, and simply say that I made pho.  Pho the first time ever (oops).

Also, I got to go to the Natural History Museum instead, and then the sun came out and I got to go to the biergarten after all. 

Pho (pre-condiment), with sesame kale in the background

Apparently, some of the appeal of pho, which is a bit lost when you're cooking for one, is that there are all these condiments-- you can kind of make it whatever you want!  Pictured below: mint, cilantro, epazote (still masquerading as basil), lime, tamari, chili-garlic paste, jalapenos.

The broth is really unique-- cinnamon, cardamom, and fennel/anise add new dimensions.  I was worried about my broth being flavorful enough, especially skipping the dried mushrooms, so I also used a little stock paste.

And the finished product looks really pretty.


1 onion, peeled and quartered
2" piece ginger, thickly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
12 c water (I subbed in a bit of stock)
4 pods cardamon, crushed or 1/4 tsp ground
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
5 whole star anise pods (I used 2 tsp fennel seed instead)
6 whole cloves
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste
    2 carrots, coarsely chopped
large handful dried shiitake mushrooms, optional (I skipped this)
1 1/2-2 cups fresh shiitake or portobello mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini)
protein--about 1/3 cup per bowl, bite sized (I used firm tofu, fried)
2-3 cups fresh mung bean sprouts (I omitted this)
bunch fresh basil (I substituted epazote)
bunch fresh mint
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
small bunch fresh cilantro
2 limes, cut in half and quartered
hoisin sauce, optional (omitted)
sriracha or red chili paste
13 oz package rice noodles

1. Place the onion, garlic and ginger on a cookie sheet and broil under direct heat until lightly charred.
2. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the charred ingredients, the spices, sugar, salt, carrots and dried mushrooms, if using. Cover the pot and let the broth cook over medium high heat(rolling boil) for 30-45 minutes.
3. While the broth is cooking, prepare the noodles as directed on your package, rinse 'em well with cold water and set aside.
4. Prepare the herbs by giving 'em a good bath and drying them well. The fun part of eating pho is each diner gets to assemble and season their own bowls. So, you can pile "the accessories" onto one platter to be shared by the table, or arrange 'em into individual bowls for each person. Make neat but separate piles of the sprouts, basil, mint, cilantro and limes. Leave the leaves on the herbs, and let folks rip them off into their own bowls at the table.
5. Strain the broth to remove all solids, rinse out the pot and return the broth. Bring back to a soft boil and add the fresh mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Season to taste lightly with salt.
6. To serve: divide the noodles evenly between 4 deep bowls. Top with your protein choice, then fill up with broth. Let each person season their bowls to taste with freshly torn herbs, sprouts, lime juice, jalapenos, wheat-free tamari, Sriracha and hoisin sauce.  Serves at least 4.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I didn't bake these

Someone declared today Vegan Pizza Day, but I'd forgotten, largely because of the accompanying emphasis on vegan cheese, which rather grosses me out.  But I ended up participating in my own way, albeit unwittingly, and before noon at that! 

After crashing on friends' couch in Santa Monica last night, I made the long bus trek homewards this morning.  Near the bus stop where I disembark is Sasoun, an Armenian/Lebanese bakery that I've been meaning to visit for the twenty months I've lived in this neighborhood, especially after a professor of mine gave it a rave recommendation last year (also see yelp page).  But shy and lazy can be a damning combination when it comes to (not) trying out new things.  Today, though, was the day.  And actually, I think I'm riding the beginnings of a sea change in this respect. 

I got the two things that I was pretty sure were vegan.  The first was manakeesh--or, as it was spelled at the bakery, maneishe--a white pita-like bread with tangy za'atar baked onto it (it's sort of like a pizza, see?).  It's eaten in many countries; Devon says she even had a version of it in northwestern China, where there was a large Uighur population.  And maybe this varies from place to place, but I think it's typically a breakfast or street food snack. 

The photos don't do it justice.  The bread was really chewy, and there were so many sesame seeds that it was crunchy, too.

The tahini bread I got was also delicious.  Flaky, nutty, and slightly sweet, it was like a mix between a pita, a croissant, and a sesame cookie.  Dunked in coffee, it was absolutely perfect.

I have the recipes in Simply Armenian, and I intend to make both these breads myself sometime.  But if it turns out not as good, I can always just walk down the street.  :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad

It was so time to get that photo of lentil loaf off the top of my blog!

Yet another recipe from the taste space here.  I made this chickpea salad for dinner last night for some friends.  I also made Robin Robertson's Turkish-Style Stuffed Eggplant with Walnut Sauce, and Amy brought a kale-tofu salad with dried cherries in it!  In each of these dishes, something sweet and/or acidic (lemon, artichoke, tomato, pomegranate, cherry) is balanced by something nutty (almonds, chickpeas, walnuts, tofu).  In this salad, the toasted almonds also add a really lovely contrasting texture.

The only actual change I made was accidental.  In picking up fresh basil at the store, I actually got something else which may or may not have been epazote (that's what my receipt said, but sometimes it also says I was born in 1911).  It tasted vaguely basil-like, though more bitter, so I just used it.  I also one clove of garlic rather than two.  I love garlic, but the raw stuff is so potent, and I think I might be slightly allergic to it.

And finally, I used artichoke hearts that didn't come from a jar.  I was never crazy about artichoke hearts until I had the marinated ones from the refrigerator case at Trader Joe's.  They are amazing, of a different class than anything shelf-stable you can find.  I once recently compared these artichoke hearts to God's testicles, which offended pretty much everyone I was talking to... but seriously.

Oh, and despite its name, this salad can certainly be eaten cold as well.

Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad

5 TB olive oil, divided
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp dried basil, or 1-2 TB fresh, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 cups cooked chickpeas
5 artichoke hearts, drained and sliced 
1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds

1. Toast almonds.  Set aside.
2. Combine ingredients up through sea salt.  Set aside.
3. Saute chickpeas til lightly browned (about 5 min).  Remove from frying pan.
4. Saute artichokes til lightly browned.  Then combine everything!  Serves about 3.

By the way... I have heard that humans sometimes make meatloaf sandwiches, so I did the same thing with the lentil loaf.  But I wasn't sure if this delicacy was a ketchup-mustard or a mayo-mustard phenomenon.  I went ketchup, but I think the other would be better.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lentil Loaf

It may surprise you to hear this, but lentil loaf not very photogenic.  Actually, just Wednesday night I saw a ridiculously beautifully presented lentil loaf at Native Foods--like a layer cake, with mashed yams, and ketchup, and parsley, and I don't even know what else--but when I started writing this post, my standards for presentation were much lower.  But it's very good!  You should keep reading...

Meatloaf is something I never really liked or ate growing up, so making a vegan version hasn't exactly been on the top of my to-do list (my feelings about vegenaise are similar).  But, a friend of mine is somewhat obsessed with lentil loaves, and when I saw a recipe in The Veganopolis Cookbook, which I got for Xmas, I thought I'd try it out.  Unfortunately, the lentil and mushroom measurements were in weight only (!?), so I totally guessed on them.  I also reduced the salt, and instead of vegan Worcestershire sauce, I used a bootleg concoction of olive oil, red wine vinegar, tamarind paste, molasses, and cayenne (going off this very complicated recipe on  Finally, I added some molasses to the stock mixture with which you glaze the loaf towards the end.  Oh, and this was a half recipe; it filled a loaf pan and served about 6-7.

Cornstarch works its magic in this recipe as well as in the last one--should I be worried?  It seems like nutritionally it's like adding white sugar to your food, but I guess in small amounts (like in this recipe), from time to time, it's probably ok... I wonder if I could use arrowroot as a substitute.

Anyway, lentil loaf is delicious!  It got much loafier as it dried out a bit in the pan overnight, and the aforementioned lentil loaf aficionado described it as "meatloaf and stuffing all in one."  Although lentils make up the bulk of the dish, the inclusion of walnuts and mushrooms means that there's a variety of textures (and even with the 1/2 c walnuts, this recipe is dirt cheap).  This dish would be great with mushroom gravy or something else saucy... maybe even ketchup?  Is that what you put on meatloaf?  I think I'm realizing that I've never actually had meatloaf.

Edit 1/27: Lentil loaf sandwich.

Lentil Loaf

heaping 1 c dried lentils, rinsed
1 quart veg stock
2-3 c mushrooms, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 red or white onion, diced
2 TB canola oil
1/2 TB ground sage
1/2 TB garlic powder
1/2 TB freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp salt (or less)
1 tsp paprika
3 TB cornstarch + 2 TB cold water
1/4 c parsley, chopped
1/2 c walnuts, toasted and chopped
1-2 TB olive oil
1 TB red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp tamarind paste 
1 tsp molasses
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1. Cook lentils in stock until they soften (40 min), then drain and reserve stock.  Mash up lentils.
2. Preheat oven to 350*.  Oil a loaf pan.
3. Over medium high heat, saute mushrooms, celery, and onion for about 10 minutes.  Add dry spices and cook for 5 more minutes.
4. Add cornstarch mixture to lentils and stir well, then add saute mixture to lentils as well.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Taste for salt.
5. Press mixture into loaf pan and bake about 1 hour until top browns.  Brush top with a mixture of reserved stock and molasses and bake 10-20 minutes more.
6. Remove from oven and let stand for at least 15 minutes.  The longer it sits, the loafier it will become.  Serves 6-7.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Aloo Tikki

I didn't really make any new year's resolutions this year.  My life's pretty awesome right now, and the things I'd like to change are slow processes of mindfulness that are already in motion.  I did decide, however, to stop keeping the meticulous budget that wasn't doing me any good, and then there was the "eat more fried potatoes" resolution.  So I'm totally succeeding at 2011.

This potato stayed in CA while I went home for the holidays.  When I came back, it looked like this, but it was still totally edible!  Mashed up, spiced, and fried, you'd have no idea the potato looked like it came from outer space.

I made this recipe from Manifest Vegan, an awesome vegan/gluten-free blog, but I actually re-glutened the recipe by using regular all-purpose flour instead of chickpea flour.  I've since purchased some chickpea flour and am rather curious to try it; please let me know if you have any recipes that use it!

My batter was a little wet, and the first batch I made (pan-frying in 1/4 in of oil), were pretty sad and mooshy (below, left).  So, I got to thinking about the amazing effect of cornstarch in the recently-tried recipe for General Tso's Tofu.  I rolled the second batch of patties in some cornstarch like little wedding cookies before frying, and indeed, the difference was vast: instead of soft and greasy, the cornstarch version were lightly crispy on the outside, and much more cohesive.

Aloo Tikki made without and with cornstarch

This recipe was delicious: the ginger and lemon zest added extra dimensions to what might other be a heavy and greasy snack.  And the whole green peas also livened up the texture.  These would be very good with tamarind-apple chutney, or something like it.

Aloo Tikki

4 medium to large sized potatoes, skin on, in large cubes
1 leek, toughest darker green parts cut away and the rest sliced thinly
1 inch piece of fresh ginger root, grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp lemon zest
1/3 c fresh cilantro, chopped (I omitted this, but I bet it would be great)
1 tsp salt
1/4 c AP flour or chickpea flour
1 TB lemon juice
1 c frozen peas, thawed
cooking oil 

1. Boil, then simmer potato cubes in a large pot of water until pokeable with a fork (7-10 min).  Drain and rinse, then mash, leaving large chunks.
2. In a skillet, fry leek, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin, garam masala and lemon zest over medium high heat until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Stir spices into the bowl with the potatoes, along with the besan flour, salt, and lemon juice. Fold in peas and cilantro. 
3. Shape into little patties, dredge in cornstarch, and fry on each side (if not deep frying) until golden brown.  Makes about 20-25 patties.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chili-Mustard-Tamarind-Glazed Tofu

My first experiment in the "use up some of that damn dry mustard" project was this chili glaze I found on epicurious.  I was excited because of the combination of spicy chilies with tangy mustard and tamarind.  Due to a situation of supply and demand, I skimped a bit on the tamarind and upped the mustard.  I witnessed first hand the binding power of dry mustard: the sauce got a bit thicker.  I used the method from my recipe for marinated tofu, pressing the tofu first and then cooking slabs of tofu in the sauce in the oven for a long time until the liquid was gone.

But I didn't like it very much.  I think this recipe could be really great, but two things were problems: first, there is no salt in this recipe, which left it tasting just sort of... off.  Secondly, I wanted to use the tofu later, cold, for sandwiches and salads and the like, and the honey crystallized and got crunchy!  I think a version that uses some tamari and far less sugar could be really great, but this version wasn't, at least not on tofu.

Chili-Mustard-Tamarind-Glazed Tofu
(glaze recipe adapted from epicurious)

1 block firm tofu (pressed is optional)
5 dried chilies, toasted and ground
3/4-1 c hot water
1 1/2 TB tamarind paste
1/2 c fresh orange juice
1 1/2 TB fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 TB red wine vinegar
2 TB olive oil
2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 cup honey (or agave)

Heat oven to 350*.  Combine marinade ingredients (everything except the tofu).  Cut block of tofu into about 12 slabs (including one width-wise cut).  Place slabs on the bottom of a baking dish, then pour sauce over the top.  Bake for about an hour, flipping the tofu several times during cooking, until most of the liquid is gone.


In other news, my living room is a very new color!  Goodbye, greenish-beige, and hello, coziness!  This also means I can never move out.



Obviously, I'm still trying out colors around the corner in the kitchen...

Dry Mustard

What do you call this stuff?  Dry mustard, mustard flour, powdered dry mustard...

I was looking through my spice annex--the cupboard where I put the spices I don't use as often, and the overly large containers of spices, and the backup spices--and I realized I've barely made a dent in the pound of powdered dry mustard I bought for a few dollars just about a year ago.  I originally bought it to make gingerbread cookies, but one can really only make so many cookies, so I decided to figure out what else you can use this stuff in.

Ok, so you can make mustard... and apparently, it works as a thickening and binding agent... gee, great; if you want to make mustard cake or mustard pudding, you've got it.  And, if you're making a sauce that might use prepared mustard, you can probably use dry mustard in that.  But I really had to dig to find recipes besides those mustard or mustard sauce.  Here's a rough list of my findings!

Uses for powdered dry mustard
So stay tuned for many experiments in dry mustard as I try to work through some of my overstock.

OH and the award for most hilariously gross dry mustard recipe goes to ... mustard aspic.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Beet and Pomegranate Salad

Strange.  I made three savory dishes for dinner on Thursday, and each of them had a different fruit in it: apples, orange and lemon, and here, two forms of pomegranate.

Cilantro... sesame oil and chili paste... pomegranate seeds and pomegranate molasses... Incongruous?  I wasn't sure about this recipe from vegalicious, but when it called for 4 beets and half a pomegranate--things I weirdly had on hand--it seemed like fate.  Following the lead of this bulgur pomegranate salad, I might have used fresh mint instead of cilantro, but cilantro was a more interesting choice, because it doesn't play along with the sweetness of the fruit, the pomolasses, and the beets nearly as much as mint would.  Instead, cilantro jives with the beets' earthiness.  And putting pomegranate seeds in anything makes the texture more fun.

A word of caution: I used 2 tsp of chili garlic paste, and it was rather hot!  I thought it was just right, but if you're not in the mood for spicy, you might want to reduce or omit the chili paste.

I killed two.. er, blocks of tofu with one stone by roasting the orange veggies for the Squash and Mushroom Pasta with Citrus at the same time as the beets.  Roasting beets took a long time, but the flavor is so much more intense than if you boil them, letting a good deal of their goodness seep out into the water.  Cooked like this, they're concentrated, sweet, slightly dirty in the best way.  The only bad thing about this is that you lose the trick of boiling with the skins on and then easily slipping those skins off later--roasting sort of welded the skins to the beets.  So, you might consider peeling the beets before roasting.

Beet and Pomegranate Salad
(from vegalicious)

3-4 medium beets, washed, peeled (if desired), and cut into bite-sized wedges
1/2 c fresh cilantro leaves
1 c pomegranate seeds
1 TB pomegranate molasses
2 TB  lemon juice
1-2 tsp chili garlic paste
2 TB olive oil
1 TB toasted sesame oil
pinch salt

1. Roast beets at 450* for 30-60 minutes, until firm but pokeable with a fork.  Then set aside and let cool.
2. Combine dressing ingredients.
3. Combine cooled beets with cilantro, pomegranate seeds, and dressing.  Serves about 3.

Apple, Lentil and Wild Rice Salad

My stepsister and her husband gave me Minnesota wild rice for Xmas, which was a really great gift.  This was the first thing I did with it.  I used 4 scallions instead of 2 shallots, and the onion flavor was a bit too much.  Otherwise, this is a simple, pretty salad that would be great to take to work for lunch because it's balanced, it tastes good cold, and it will probably get better after sitting in the fridge for a day or two.

Apple, Lentil, and Wild Rice Salad

3/4 c wild rice
1 c green lentils, picked over and rinsed
2-4 scallions, chopped
1 apple, large dice
1 carrot, large dice
2 tsp ground cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
2 TB balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, to taste

1. Cook wild rice and lentils separately according to instructions.  Drain if necessary and let cool.
2. Combine dressing ingredients.
3. Combine rice, lentils, remaining vegetables, and dressing, and allow to sit before serving.  Serves about 5.

Squash and Mushroom Pasta with Citrus

And.. I'm back!  I may have missed the entire MLA convention last weekend because I was too busy eating ice cream for breakfast, checking out dive bars with a hot girl, and going to the park, but I'm at least back to my old habits of cooking.  This is one of three dishes I made Thursday night.  I liked the idea of making a creamy sauce out of vegetables, and the addition of citrus seemed like an interesting twist.

My squash was too little, and part of it was rotten and had to be thrown out [ :(  ], so I threw in some carrots as well.  Because I was using fresh roasted vegetables instead of softer frozen ones, I pureed the sauce ingredients before transferring them to the pan.  I also used rotelle instead of farfalle, and way less of it than the original recipe called for.  Finally, I halved the amount of nutritional yeast.  If you ask me, a little bit goes a long way.

The combination of squash and mushroom with citrus was lovely and satisfying, but I felt that the sauce was a little too dry or mealy feeling.  Next time I will either add some ground cashews or more olive oil to the sauce to make it richer.  The sliced almonds are a really great touch; they add needed variety to the textures of the dish.

Squash and Mushroom Pasta with Citrus
(adapted from happy healthy life)

4+ cups cooked pasta (about 8 oz. dry)
Squash Sauce:
2 c butternut squash (and/or carrot) cubes, roasted
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1 tsp garlic powder
1 TB maple syrup
2 TB olive oil (or more)
dash of salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 TB nutritional yeast
juice of 1 orange
1 tsp orange zest
Chickpea Mixture:
1 TB olive oil
1/2 small white onion, diced
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1+ c cremini mushrooms, sliced 
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 TB lemon juice
1 c sliced almonds (roasted, unsalted) 

1. Cook pasta according to instructions.
2. After the squash/carrots are roasted and cooled, puree all the sauce ingredients in a blender, then transfer to a pan.
3. In a second skillet, heat olive oil, then saute onion until clear.  Add cinnamon, mushrooms, and chickpeas, and cook about 10 minutes.  Then add lemon juice and almonds and turn off heat.
4. When pasta is finished, heat squash sauce over low heat, then add pasta and toss well.  Then add mushroom mixture as well.  Serve hot.  Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

General Tso's Tofu

What an authentic inauthentic recipe!  It tastes just like the real thing... even if the "real thing" here is the chicken I remember getting from the Leann Chin buffet as a child.  You can read more about the murky, recent, and largely American history of the General Tso's Chicken on or wikipedia.

This recipe from chic vegan was like tofu candy: a delicious mixture of textures and tastes.  And--although this might surprise you about American Chinese food--it's not very healthy, at least by my standards.  The recipe uses lots of oil and quite a bit of sugar (though I was able to halve the sugar with no problem), and tons of cornstarch, which I realized increases the calorie content (as well as the deliciousness content) by a ton.  I believe we're talking like over 300 calories of cornstarch per serving.

But the delicate battered crispiness is not to be beaten!  The sauce is sweet but still flavorful (use a lot of pepper, though).  Besides halving the sugar, I also skimped a bit on cornstarch, used seasoned rice vinegar instead of white vinegar, and skipped the sherry originally called for.  This recipe worked really well.  It looks a bit complicated, but if you mise everything en place before starting, you'll see that it actually doesn't have that many steps.

Cornstarch-dredged tofu cubes starting to fry

Tofu added back to the sauce at the end

General Tso's Tofu
(adapted from Chic Vegan)


1 (12-oz) block firm tofu, in 1″ cubes (I pressed it for a while before using)
1 egg equivalent (e.g., EnerG Egg Replacer), prepared
3 TB + 2 TB water, divided
scant 3/4 c + 1 TB cornstarch, divided
vegetable oil for frying + 3 TB vegetable oil, divided
3 green onions, chopped
1 TB minced ginger
1 TB minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
2/3 c vegetable stock
2 TB granulated sugar
2 TB soy sauce
1 TB seasoned rice vinegar
red pepper, to taste

1. Mix the egg replacer as specified on the box and add an additional 3 TB water.  Dip tofu in egg replacer mixture and coat completely.  Transfer to a second bowl.  Sprinkle 3/4 c cornstarch over tofu and coat completely.  Watch out that the cornstarch doesn’t clump up at the bottom of the bowl.
2. Heat oil in pan and fry tofu pieces until golden. Drain excess oil. Heat 3 TB vegetable oil in pan on medium heat.  Add green onions, ginger, and garlic; cook for about 2 minutes.  Be careful not to burn garlic.
3. Add vegetable stock, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and red pepper.
4. Mix 2 TB water with 1 TB cornstarch and pour into mixture stirring well.  Add fried tofu and coat evenly.  Serve immediately with steamed broccoli over your choice of rice.  Serves about 3.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Turkish Bulgur Pomegranate Salad

It's tabouleh gone wild!!!

Only very tangentially related: If this fusion restaurant's website could talk...

What a perfect recipe: balanced, high in fiber, higher still in deliciousness, inventive while still staying within the culinary realm of one part of the world.  This recipe from taste space was really lovely.  I omitted tomatoes because I didn't have any, and it was a little unclear to me whether the recipe called for 1 c cooked or uncooked bulgur--I went for uncooked, which meant that a greater proportion of the recipe was bulgur (especially in relation to the chickpeas), but when I added everything it seemed about right, and that's not even counting the tomatoes, if you use them.  The dressing was pretty strong, especially the sweet-tartness of the pomegranate molasses, so if you want a less intensely sweet flavor, you might want to cut back there, but I will definitely be making this again!  It's also perfect for taking to work as it's (again) delicious and complete unto itself.

Turkish Bulgur Pomegranate Salad

1 c (that is, 1 c before cooking?) coarse bulgur, prepared according to package directions
1 c cooked chickpeas (i.e., about 1/4-1/3 c dry?)
2 c cherry tomatoes, about 1 pint, halved
1/2 c almonds, slivered and toasted
1/2 c pomegranate seeds (about 1/2 of a large pomegranate)
1/3 c chopped mint
zest from 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
2 TB (or less) pomegranate molasses
2 TB fresh lemon juice
2 TB olive oil
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Combine everything through salt, toss well.  Combine remaining ingredients and add only just before serving.  Serves 4-5.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Soups, sandwiches

I guess I've been in a bit of a cooking slump since I got back from the holidays.  Part of it is the busyness of getting into a new quarter, and part of it is being out of the habit of cooking and blogging, since I didn't do too much of that while I was staying with family and friends.

I have some exciting things planned--several beet recipes and pomegranate recipes, plus a whole thing on powdered dry mustard--but I've also been eating a lot of simple food, and repeats of old recipes, like Celeste's mushroom leek soup and my spicy carrot ginger soup (pictured below with mustard greens fried with onion, garlic, cumin, tamari, and lemon).

And, I'm still riding the sandwich train.  Below: sprouted rye bread with (bottom to top) vegenaise, whole grain mustard, avocado, lemon juice, sprouts, and black pepper.  Yum.

Mushroom Bourguignon (sortof) with Spaetzle

I'm not going to repost these recipes, adapted from The Taste Space, because I kind of messed them up too much.  As it turns out, you probably need wine to make anything bourguignon.  The mushroom dish was still good, but the spaetzle were pretty bad--I think because I had the hubris to use all whole wheat flour.  I was left with the impression that I was cooking gluten boogers.  I think they might be good if they were fried after cooking to give them more texture.

I used ener-g egg replacer and whole wheat flour instead of eggs and AP flour.

Instead of wine/stock, I used a mix of stock, sugar, red wine vinegar, and tamarind paste.  I also omitted the pearl onions and used cremini instead of portobello mushrooms.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Garlicky Eggplant Pasta with Tofu and Kale, by way of Bulgaria

My first trip back to the grocery store in LA yielded exciting things.  I got this big jar of "Eggplant 'Caviar' Spread" from Bulgaria.  Now, I've had an eggplant spread or two in my day, and the ingredients here looked like nothing surprising:


Nothing but eggplant, carrots, comato concentrate, oil, onion, sugar, salt, and parsley.  Not even the tricky "spices" or "natural flavors."

But somehow these simple ingredients managed to taste freakily like spaghetti-o's, except in a healthy way.  How do they do this?  I'm totally mystified.  I'm sure it's not the eggplant.

Ohhh.  And I just googled the ingredients (ew) and am more mystified than ever.  The only shared ingredient is tomato concentrate.

Anyway, first I thought I'd make sandwiches out of this stuff.  I don't really eat a lot of sandwiches, but staying with John and Celeste last week got me thinking more about sandwiches.  I also decided that maybe Vegenaise (only ingredients: Canola Oil, Filtered Water, Apple Cider Vinegar, Brown Rice Syrup, Soy Protein, Sea Salt, Lemon Juice, and Mustard Flour) isn't really as creepy as I'd thought.  John and Celeste are devotees of Vegenaise.

So, Exhibit A: Really good sandwich on sprouted rye bread with vegenaise, avocado, sprouts, raw mustard greens, and eggplant spread.  I forgot to take a photo.

Exhibit B?  I thought I'd play up the spaghetti-o's factor by using it as a sauce rather than as a spread.  This was really good, as well as pretty easy and a balanced meal.  Did you know that whole wheat pasta has more protein and more fiber than brown rice?

Garlicky Eggplant Pasta with Tofu and Kale

2-3 servings whole wheat rotelle pasta (or similar)
1 bunch kale, destemmed and chopped
canola oil
4-5 cloves garlic, pressed
1 block tofu, pressed and cut into bite-sized pieces
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 jar eggplant spread (pasta sauce would work, too)

1. Cook pasta according to directions in lots of water.  When 2-3 minutes remain on the pasta, throw in kale as well.  Finish cooking, then drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil over medium high heat in a large skillet.  Add garlic and cook a few minutes, then add tofu and fry, stirring not too frequently, until sides are golden and slightly crispy.  It's okay if pieces stick to the bottom.
3. Add a small splash of tamari, stir, then reduce heat to low.  Add pasta, kale, and lemon juice to skillet; mix well.  Then stir in eggplant spread a bit at a time, to desired sauciness.  Serve warm.  Serves about 3.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A New Year

I just got back from 10 days in Minneapolis and Chicago.  It was unusually snowy, it was unseasonably warm, it was wonderful.

Minnesota on 12/27

Logan Square, Chicago, after a freak warm spell/rainstorm on 12/31

One of the highlights of my trip (besides a ridiculously good NYE dinner at Ras Dashen Ethiopian restaurant) was that my friends Celeste and John, who I was staying with in Chicago, suggested that we host a New Years Day brunch at their place.  I am very doubtful that there is a better way to spend the first day of the best year yet than eating good food with dear friends.

Our brunch had a vaguely southern theme: biscuits, gravy, sausage, fried collards, potatoes, muffins.  It was ridiculously heavy on the carbs, but it seemed to go over well nonetheless.

We adapted the spelt biscuits from a recipe in Veganomicon for a cassoulet with biscuits.. unlike in the recipe, we just dropped them on a greased baking sheet and baked them at 425 for about 10-12 minutes.  They were very tender--apparently that's a characteristic of spelt flour, that it stays very wet and soft; I had to add quite a bit of extra flour to get a workable dough .

But these were great with Celeste's recipe for Mushroom Celery Gravy, originally from Vegan Yum Yum.  I have to say, I'm still partial to this mushroom gravy, which is a bit less starchy, but the celery was a nice addition, and the cooking method for this recipe made it easier to avoid getting clumpy gravy than in the earlier recipe.

Celeste's muffins (sadly, I have no photo) were a variation on the spelt blueberry muffins from the Babycakes cookbook (reason #1094760 that all these Chicago folks should come visit me in LA, btw).  She used cranberries and walnuts, and some wholemeal spelt flour, and sprinkled maple sugar over the top.  They were fantastic.

We also made roasted fingerling potatoes (with olive oil, rosemary, gomasio, garlic, and pepper) and fried collards (with garlic, onion, tamari, lemon, and sesame oil).

And, we made the Oats and Rice Sausage that I've blogged about before.

Here's my plate.  :)

Oh, and here's one of John's unbelievably complicated bloody marys.  Due to the worcestershire sauce, they weren't vegan, and I don't much like bloody marys (or drinking in the morning) anyway.  But word on the street was, these were pretty bomb, as far as bloody marys go.  It is a constant source of puzzlement to me why the only socially acceptable types of morning drank are the bloody mary and the mimosa (please, hold the tomato juice and the sugar and just give me a beer...).   But no matter.

Oh.  And speaking of hair of the dog, our brunch was graced by the most adorable three-legged dog in the universe!


The last time I visited Chicago was two years ago, exactly six months after I'd moved away.  That was a rough visit, in part because it was impossible to ignore how quickly things had changed in Chicago without me, how much starting grad school had changed me, and also how impoverished some of my relationships had been even when I was living in Chicago.  This time, two more years later, I was struck instead by how many things are--and will be--the same: the weather, the lived experience of life in Chicago, and the friendships that really matter.  I am so thankful for these people and those places.

Sunrise over downtown, seen from the L station, en route to the airport