Monday, February 28, 2011

Vegan Bouillabaisse

Or, Manhattan Clam Chowder by way of France and Barbados... and without clams.

A few years ago when I was tearing across western Europe before moving away from London and returning to the US, I got stranded by a rail strike in Marseille.  This gave me plenty of time to explore, and it ended up being my favorite city in France.  The coastal setting, the colonial-era architecture, the state of disrepair, the people from West Africa and the Maghreb, all made it feel strangely familiar--as much like St. Louis (Senegal), Dakar, or New Orleans as like the rest of France.

I don't think I've ever had bouillabaisse, but it apparently comes from Marseille.  Although this recipe sort of reverses the process, making the broth and "seafood" separately and combining them at the end rather than cooking it all together and separating the broth from the fish at the end, I was still really impressed by how innovative it was.  As any reader of this blog knows, to me, fake processed "meats" are unappealing at best and offensive at worst.  But in this recipe, Taymer Mason marinates heart of palm, tofu cubes, and rolled up eggplant in a mixture of nori, fennel, and herbs to get a slightly fishy taste.  The texture of the heart of palm, in particular, is eerily seafoodish.

This was also my first time cooking with a bouquet garni (at right).  Oh, French cooking is so complicated!

But this soup was amazing.  It tasted a lot like the Manhattan clam chowder my parents used to make when I was little.  The hearts of palm fall apart in the soup, and the little pieces of them are dead ringers for chunks of clam.  The flavor of the soup is not only lightly seafoody, but also (thanks to the herbs, spices, and orange rind) spicy and complex.

Ok, it's kind of a lot of work, but it's easy to make the stock and the marinating "seafood" ahead of time, and the next day when you're ready for soup, there's not that much left to do.  My only problem was that since I only had plastic toothpicks I didn't feel comfortable sauteeing the eggplant rolls with the other "seafood."  So I steamed them separately.

This went really well with the also-fennel-inflected Brussels sprouts and mushrooms I recently posted about.

Vegan Bouillabaisse

Vegan Fishless Fish Stock
1/2 onion chopped in half
1 garlic clove
2 sheets roasted seaweed crumbled
3 c water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp oil
1 bouquet garni (fennel, bay leaf, parsley and thyme)
Eggplant Seafood,Heart of Palm and Tofish Marinade
2 sheets of nori
6 green onions, minced
1/2 small onion chopped
1 tsp salt
pinch of cayenne
2 sprigs fennel
2 c of water
3 TB oil
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 medium eggplant deseeded and cut into strips
1/2 can hearts of palm
6 oz tofu cut into small flat rectangular pieces
1 recipe for marinade
3 TB oil
Bouillabaisse Stock
3 TB olive oil
1/2 fennel bulb thinly sliced
3 tomatoes blanched with the skin removed
2 leeks thinly sliced
1 carrot chopped finely
1/2 zucchini chopped finely
2 medium potatoes peeled and sliced thinly
1 bouquet garni
6 cloves garlic crushed
4 pieces of orange rind
1 recipe vegan fish stock  (I ended up adding several more cups of water as well)
1 heaping TB tomato paste
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
pinch cayenne pepper
salt to taste

1. Add all the ingredients of the fish stock into a pot and leave it to simmer for 20 minutes over medium heat. Set aside and let the flavor meld together. When cooled strain and set aside in the fridge until ready to use. This can keep for up to 1 week in the fridge.
2. In the meantime salt the eggplant and leave for 30 minutes to wilt and turn brown. Roll eggplant strips into a ball as shown in the photo. Add all the ingredients for the marinade together in a food processor and process until fairly smooth. The mixture will appear a little slimy. Pour over prepared seafood bits and leave to marinate overnight or a fast marinade of 1 hour.
3. Heat olive oil to medium heat and add fennel bulb, tomatoes,leeks,carrot,zuchinni, potatoes, 1 bouquet garni, and 4-6 cloves garlic. Add orange rind, fish stock, tomato paste, white pepper, turmeric, and cayenne.  (I ended up adding several more cups of water at this point to cover all the veggies).  Cover and cook in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat for  40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and cook vegan seafood pieces. Add to the bouillabaisse and serve hot.   Serves about 6.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fennel and Mushrooms

This is from my friend Celeste's blog.  Oh, it was good!  It's such a simple recipe, but it's the best thing I've had in ages.  Roasting creates amazing flavors and textures in this recipe: buttery brussels sprouts with crispy outsides, chewy tangy mushrooms, slightly crisp fennel, creamy sweet garlic.  I ate half the pan, and it makes a lot.

I didn't measure the mushrooms or Brussels sprouts, but I think I was somewhere in the ballpark of the amounts specified.  In any case, what I made was enough to fill a 9x13-inch baking dish pretty high. 
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fennel and Mushrooms

1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts
4 shallots (I sliced these into thin discs and then separated them into rings)
10 garlic cloves, peeled (I left them as whole cloves)
1/2 lb shiitake mushroom caps (in thin slices--I actually used portobellos)
1 large fennel bulb, greens removed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used more like 1/4-3/8 c)
3 TB balsamic vinegar
2 TB fresh tarragon or rosemary
sea salt/pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Prepare brussels sprouts by cutting away tough root ends and removing blemished outer leaves. Slice in half lengthwise and place in a large bowl. Add shallots, garlic, and mushroom caps.  Prepare fennel by trimming off dried root end and slicing bulb thinly widthwise. Add to vegetables and toss with olive oil, vinegar, tarragon/rosemary, salt, and pepper.
3. Place in a 9x12 glass or ceramic baking dish and roast uncovered for 25 minutes. Stir and roast for 25 minutes more. Remove and serve.  (I actually did 2 intervals of 20 min and it turned out just right).  Serves about 4.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter Tabouleh

I was so excited to make this recipe and finally buy some sumac, a spice I know only from its inclusion in za'atar.  But I didn't really like this recipe.  To be fair, I made it when I didn't have too much of an appetite to begin with, but even so... for one, I felt like there was far too much cabbage in relation to the chickpeas and the bulgur, and for two, the sumac was really overpowering.  I'd start with only a little bit and then add more if you want.  Sumac has a pungent, sour taste that's very unique.  I've posted an adapted recipe with these reactions in mind.

Winter Tabouleh
(adapted from taste of beirut)

1-2 c finely shredded cabbage
1/2 c bulgur
1-2 c chick peas
1/4 c green onions, chopped
1-3 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 tsp salt
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 c olive oil
1-3 tsp sumac
2 TB ground dried mint
1 avocado

1. Cook the bulgur, then drain and mix in a large bowl with chickpeas and cabbage.
2. Mix together garlic, salt, lemon, oil, sumac, and mint.  Then mix this into the large bowl.  Serve with avocado slices.  Serves 3-4.

Spicy Coconut Lime Tofu

Recently I made this recipe for Spicy Coconut Lime Tofu from Bread without Butter, but instead of grilling I used the pan glazing method of this standby recipe for Orange Pan-Glazed Tofu/Tempeh.  Since I didn't have a long time to marinate the tofu, I thought that simmering the lightly fried tofu in the sauce might result in more flavor.  (By the way, due to the coconut milk and the chili paste, this was the weirdest looking marinade ever; it looked like melted strawberry ice cream with pieces of cilantro in it.  Which, come to think of it, actually sounds pretty great.)

I didn't have black bean garlic sauce, so I substituted miso paste to add saltiness and earthiness.

Spicy Coconut Lime Tofu
(adapted from bread without butter)

1/4 c brown rice vinegar
3 TB black bean garlic sauce (I used miso)
2 TB sambal oelek (I used chili-garlic paste)
1 1/4 c light coconut milk
1 TB agave nectar (I used honey)
1 tsp fresh ginger, slightly crushed
2 TB fresh cilantro, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
oil for pan-frying
19 oz firm or extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed (I used one package of firm tofu, which was actually 14 oz.)

Combine all ingredients (except tofu and oil).  Cut tofu into small pieces.  Fry them in a skillet, flipping after a few minutes, until golden brown.  Pour in marinade, reduce heat, stir occasionally, flip occasionally, until most of the liquid is evaporated.  Serves 3-4.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cauliflower Pie

My professor and foodie-friend Helen sent me this recipe awhile back, and I finally got around to making it.  Actually, it was really convenient: I made the cauliflower mixture for this recipe (at right) and the batter for the chickpea-artichoke bites ahead of time, and today I was able to turn on the oven and just throw both dishes in.

I was worried about this dish, because it seemed like you'd really need the egg not only for consistency but also for flavor.  I thought about using tofu and riffing off some vegan quiche recipe, but then that seemed too hard, and it kind of creeps me out how some vegans end up putting tofu in everything.  So I stuck by the flavorless, invisible ener-g egg replacer, adding a pinch of turmeric for color and for a slightly pungent flavor, and adding nutritional yeast for a cheesier flavor (and also color).  I want to get my hands on some kala namak, or black salt, and see what it does for "eggy" flavors.

It turned out a lot better than I thought it would!  Cauliflower gets strangely creamy when prepared this way, especially given that it's baked with not only the "egg" and the nutritional yeast, but also the flour and the oil.  It sort of melts in your mouth, and the breadcrumbs are nicely crunchy.  I thought it was a little bland, so in addition to using more garlic, salt, and pepper, I might experiment with adding some thyme or something.

Cauliflower Pie

1 large white cauliflower
5 TB olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs, slightly beaten (I used ener-g egg replacer)
pinch turmeric (added)
some nutritional yeast (added)
2 TB unbleached flour
4 TB coarse bread crumbs

1. With a sharp knife, separate flowerettes and discard the core of the cauliflower.  Boil the flowerettes in slightly salted water for 15 minutes or so until they are fork tender but not mushy.  Drain and mash.
2. Heat 3 TB of oil in a large skillet, add the garlic, and cook for one minute or so, but don’t let the garlic burn.  Add the mashed cauliflower, season with salt and pepper to taste and stir over high heat until excess moisture has evaporated.
3. Remove from heat and let cool.  Add eggs, turmeric, nutritional yeast, and flour, and mix to combine.  Pour into an oiled oven-proof pan (I used a loaf pan) sprinkled with some of the bread crumbs.  Spread evenly with a spatula, top with remaining breadcrumbs and oil, bake in 450* F oven for 30 minutes or so until top begins to brown.

Chickpea-Artichoke Bites with Rosemary Aioli

I think I bookmarked this recipe because it uses chickpea flour (which, by the way, is magic!).  Pleasing but a little strange, these appetizers are like a cross between hummus and falafel, but a little more Italian than Middle Eastern.  They're soft and delicate, but they hold together well enough for dipping.

I thought that the bites (or puffs, or whatever) were a bit too lemony given how sour the aioli also was.  Actually, since I'm not really too keen on vegan mayo, I might keep the bite the way they were and create a different kind of dipping sauce.

Chickpea-Artichoke Bites with Rosemary Aioli 
(from the vegan planet blog)

Ingredients for Chickpea-Artichoke Bites
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, well drained
1/2 c cooked chickpeas, mashed
1/2 c diced cooked potato
2 TB minced fresh parsley
2 tsp nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 TB chickpea flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Rosemary Aioli (recipe follows)

1. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 400* F.
2. Finely chop the artichokes or pulse them in a food processor until finely chopped. If using a food processor, add the chickpeas and pulse to break up.  Otherwise, mash the chickpeas in a bowl and add the artichokes and mash together. Add the potato, parsley, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, mustard, garlic powder, salt, pepper, chickpea flour, and baking powder. Mix well to combine. If the mixture is too dry, add 1/2 teaspoon (or more) olive oil or lemon juice.
3. Pinch off a small amount of the mixture and use your hands to roll it into a 1/2- to 3/4-inch ball. Place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all the mixture is used up.
4. Bake for about 18 minutes or until lightly browned. Arrange on a platter with a small bowl of aioli and serve warm.  Makes 20-24 puffs.

Rosemary Aioli
1/3 c vegan mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, run through a garlic press (I used 1/2 tsp garlic powder instead)
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 to 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sherry vinegar (I used red wine vinegar instead)
salt, to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix until smooth and well blended. Taste and adjust seasonings. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate until needed.  Makes about 1/3 cup.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Homemade (Vegan) Thin Mints!

I have created thin mints!  There's a feeling of triumph in replicating a product so trademarked, so anticipated, so singular.  I also realized how much more decadent a chocolate-covered cookie is than a normal cookie (though the uncoated cookies were pretty good on their own).

With this recipe from Chloe Coscarelli, the taste but not exactly the texture of the thin mint was recreated.  I couldn't get the cookie quite crunchy enough, a texture that is really only desirable in relationship to the creaminess of the outer chocolate coating.  Doing something along the lines of this recipe from alien's day out, which uses oil instead of vegan butter, might help on the texture-authenticity front.  Still, no one was complaining about the slight softness of the cookies.

No cookie is safe.  Caramel delites / Samoas will be next.

Vegan Thin Mints
(from chef chloe)

 wafer cookies:
1 1/4 c all-purpose flour (I used 3/4 c white, and 1/2 c wheat)
1 c sugar (I used 3/4 c)
1/2 c cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 c vegan margarine
3 TB nondairy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
chocolate coating:
4 c dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate
2 TB vegan margarine
1 tsp peppermint extract

Wafer Cookies: 
1. In a bowl mix together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.  With a fork, cut in butter, then also add milk, vanilla, and mint extract.  Knead with your hands in the bowl for one minute.  Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 350* F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Remove dough from refrigerator.  Roll a heaping teaspoon of cookie dough into a ball and place onto prepared baking sheets, leaving about 3 inches in between each ball. Evenly flatten the dough with your fingertips so that it is about 1/4 inch thick and bake for 12-14 minutes. Let cool completely.
Chocolate Coating:
3. Melt chocolate chips and margarine over a double boiler or in the microwave. Stir in the mint extract and mix until smooth. Dip completely cooled cookies into the chocolate and remove with a fork, gently scrapping off excess chocolate using the side of the bowl. Or, spread a thin layer of the chocolate on top of the cookies. 4. Place cookies on a parchment-lined plate or tray and refrigerate until chocolate coating sets. Store in the refrigerator.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Smoky Roasted Nuts

Busy week!

I put these nuts together on Sunday to bring to a party.  The recipe called for baking at 350* for 30 minutes.  At 20 minutes, they were burned.  :/   So, I tried again, taking them out after 15.  Still burned.  I can totally imagine how good they'd be when they don't have quite so much of a "smoky" taste.  Maybe start watching after 10 minutes?
Smoky Roasted Nuts

2 TB soy sauce
2 TB toasted sesame oil
2 tsp liquid smoke
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
3 c whole raw nuts

Preheat oven to 350*.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Combine all ingredients except nuts, then toss nuts in the liquid.  Spread out on a baking sheet and bake until browned and crispy (10 minutes? 15 minutes?).  Watch them like you'd watch a zombie lurking in the corner of your living room.


This week I also picked up some "saifun" noodles made out of bean starch (the package looks like this).  The texture is exactly like gummy bears.  I stirfried them with onion, garlic, tofu, peas, carrots, kale, cilantro, lime, chili-garlic paste, and tamari.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spicy Pasta Sauce and Tempeh Meatballs

A while back I went over to my friend Holly's place to make some pretty fancy spaghetti and meatballs.  Holly actually made spaghetti squash, as well as a spicy tomato sauce.  I improvised some gluten-free tempeh meatballs (see below), which ended up better than I'd hoped.  All so good!  I recently remade the sauce and the meatballs, so as to have photos to share with you.  The meatball recipe follows the sauce recipe.

It seems as though the magic of the pasta sauce was in the two ingredients I almost never use: red wine and marjoram.  In making the recipe this time, I roasted a pepper and threw it in as well.  I also used a different combination of tomatoes, because I did have fresh ones and I didn't have enough canned ones.  I think as long as the ratio of water to tomatoeyness stays the same, you can be pretty flexible.  This has messed me up in the past, however, when I made Robin Robertson's Chickpea and Green Bean Tagine with crushed tomatoes instead of diced and it got too syrupy.  Finally, I used 2-3 TB fresh basil instead of 3/4 tsp dried, adding it in later in the process.  Holly had decreased the pepper and increased the garlic, and I kept those changes, too.

Spicy Pasta Sauce
(adapted from epicurious)

3 TB olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
6+ garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp dried basil (I used 2-3 TB fresh minced basil instead, and added it later on)
3/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper
2 28-oz cans Italian-style tomatoes + 1 c canned crushed tomatoes with added purée
*instead of the above, I used 28 oz canned diced tomatoes + 2.5 c fresh roma tomatoes, diced + 1/4 c tomato paste + some water*
1 flame-roasted bell pepper, diced (and most burnt parts removed)
1/2 c dry red wine

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, oregano, basil, marjoram and crushed red pepper. Cover and cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients; simmer gently, uncovered, until sauce thickens and measures 8 cups total, breaking up tomatoes with spoon and stirring occasionally, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.


Well, hell if I know what a meatball tastes like, but these were great, in terms of both texture and taste.  And hey! they're gluten free.

I started with this recipe from sparkpeople, but I halved it, and then, going off this recipe from wheatlessandmeatless, I added oregano, onion, parsley, and "egg."  After my recent adventure with raw onions in falafel, I decided to sautee the onion first, and finally, we opted for pan-frying instead of baking.  I thought the balsamic vinegar might be weird, but I guess it does double duty of adding sweetness and acidity; it also mellowed out after the balls were cooked.

Tempeh Meatballs

8 oz tempeh
1/2 of an onion, finely chopped and sauteed in olive oil
1 TB + 2 TB olive oil, divided
1/4 c chickpea flour
scant 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
3/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 TB oregano
2 TB fresh parsley, chopped (omitted the second time)
1-2 “eggs” (2 TB ground flax + 6 TB water)

1. Cut the tempeh into small cubes and steam for 15 minutes.  Then set aside to cool.
2. Saute the onions in 1 TB olive oil until fragrant and lightly browned.
3. In a food processor, blend together everything, including the tempeh and the onions.  Add more liquid or chickpea flour as needed.  Then let the mixture sit for 5+ min.
4. Form the mixture into smallish balls and pan-fry in hot oil for a few minutes on each side.  Serve atop pasta and sauce.  Serves 3-4.

Mango Cornbread

I made this mango cornbread from Holy Cow! to go with the Hyderabadi Bagara Baingan I recently posted about.  Most cornbread recipes are actually part cornmeal and part wheat flour, so I was skeptical but interested when I saw that this recipe was all cornmeal.  Besides the flax seed, I think the reason this recipe stays coherent is the amount of mango puree; it works as a binder, like applesauce does in other recipes.  I was a little disappointed that the mango and coconut flavors were so subtle: I love cardamom, but it really dominated the taste of the cornbread.  Finally, because quick breads don't seem to stay fresh for long, I actually halved this recipe and made it in a loaf pan, cooking it for about five minutes less than the recipe specifies.  But the recipe below makes a more standard amount; you can probably make it in an 8x8 baking dish.

Oh, and original author Vaishali took far better photos than these, so you can just go to her blog and pretend those are the photos you're seeing here...

Mango Cornbread
(from holy cow!)


2 c stone ground cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cardamom (or less)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c canola oil
3/4 c sugar (I only used 1/2 c)
2 TB ground flax seed
1 1/2 c mango pulp (for me, this was a puree of 4 small mangoes)
1/2 c coconut milk

1. Preheat oven to 350*.  Oil a baking dish.
2. Mix dry and wet separately.  Add mango and coconut milk to wet mixture, then add dry mix as well.
3. Pour the batter into pan and bake around 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Fills an 8x8 baking dish.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Hyderabadi Bagara Baingan

This was fantastic.  And rather like this Hyderabad cauliflower I made a while back, this dish mixes some of the standard elements of Northern Indian cuisine (a masala spice paste that includes cinnamon) with those of Southern Indian cuisine (coconut, tamarind).  This recipe especially interested me because it also calls for peanuts, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds!  The result: deliciousness, albeit deliciousness that didn't photograph extremely well.  The texture of the eggplant was velvety, and the stuffing-paste was really interesting.  The dish actually wasn't very spicy at all; you might add more cayenne with impunity.  Then again, it's really good without the heat, too. 

I omitted the jaggery and the curry leaves because I don't have them.

Stuffed and ready to go


Hyderabadi Bagara Baingan

6-8 small purple Eggplants
1.5 c sliced onion, divided
1/4 c peanuts
1 TB sesame seeds
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch piece cinnamon stick
1 TB grated, dried coconut
1 inch piece ginger, grated
4-5 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp tamarind extract
2 TB peanut or vegetable oil, divided
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or more)
1/2 tsp jaggery, grated
6-7 curry leaves
salt to taste

1. Slice open the eggplants, leaving one of the end parts intact.
2. Dry roast the peanuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, coriander and cumin seeds, grated coconut and cinnamon stick one after the other.  Allow to cool.
3. Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and brown the sliced onions, about 8-10mins. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over them in the beginning to draw out their moisture.
4. Once all the dry roasted ingredients have cooled down, grind them together to a fine paste along with half the cooked onions, ginger, garlic, tumeric, tamarind extract, jaggery, and a little water to help the blending process. You still need a thick'ish paste that can be stuffed into the eggplants.
5.Stuff about a teaspoon of the paste into the slits, this will need some patience 6. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a deep saucepan, sauté the curry leaves and carefully add the stuffed brinjals to the pan. They tend to splutter a lot, so I cover the pan and let them cook for about 10 mins, until they soften. Rotate them every few minutes so they cook evenly.
7. Reduce the heat a bit, add the rest of the masala paste, the other half of the cooked onions, cayenne pepper, a cup and a half of water and salt to taste.
8. Cook on medium heat until the eggplants are cooked through and the oil starts to separate from the masala and collect around the edges.  Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Warm Salad

What do you think the difference is between a stew and a warm salad?  The amount of liquid?  The amount of mooshiness?  I'm not sure, but I did feel like this was more of a salad than a stew.  Deceptively simple, as original author Janet of taste space notes, the combination of tastes and textures is really good, especially if you can get decent tomatoes and basil--I don't think I mention enough how much I love living in southern California (though unfortunately the tomatoes here did come from Mexico...but then again, many places in Mexico are closer to LA than many places in CA, so it's hard to evaluate how local this is).

I didn't change too much: I used regular brown lentils instead of Puuy, which meant that they took longer to cook and I had to watch to make sure they didn't get too mushy--I wanted a salad, not a dal.  I also used balsamic vinegar rather than sherry vinegar, as I do in this other favorite lentil salad.  I also had to use regular paprika rather than smoked.  Regular paprika is kind of useless; I'm not sure it added anything to the dish.  Finally, I think that this, too, is the kind of recipe where you don't have to measure that carefully.  The divided olive oil and vinegar look complicated, but really, just use a sploosh of each, each time you need it.

Spanish Lentil and Mushroom Warm Salad

1-2 green onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 TB + 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 c lentils, rinsed
water for lentils (according to directions--I think some kinds of lentils require more water than others)
1/2 tsp paprika (smoked if available)
1/2 TB + 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, divided
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered lengthwise
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
6 big leaves of basil, chiffonade
black pepper, to taste

1. In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, heat 1 tsp of the oil. When hot, saute the onions with a pinch of salt for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and continue to saute for 1 minute, until the onions and garlic are softened. Add the lentils with 4 cups of water (or however much you need) and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender but not falling apart (20+ minutes). When they are done, if there is a lot of water left over, drain it and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a very hot saute pan, fry the mushrooms with 1 TB of the olive oil, turning occasionally. Try to get them to brown well on most sides. Season with salt.
3. When the lentils are cooked, add the paprika, 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1/2 TB of vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning.
4. Toss the cherry tomatoes and basil with 1 tsp of olive oil, 1 tsp of vinegar, and a pinch of salt.
5. To serve, divide the lentils into bowls. Top with the mushrooms, and top that with the tomato salad. Give the whole thing a grind of black pepper and another little dusting of smoked paprika, if desired.  Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Awkward confession: for all the number of times I have uttered the word "piccata!" in my life, I had never actually eaten it until this past weekend.  This is the kind of thing where if you don't know, you probably don't need to... but certainly, it was partly in honor of Beavis and Butthead's imminent return to television that I decided to finally try making some piccata.

Quite different from a lot of eye-talian food we eat in the US, piccata is made with a sauce of lemon, white wine, and capers (yes, I'm still trying to use that damn bottle of wine).  In this particular recipe from LA's Augusta Vegan Bakery, the puckery tartness of the lemon, capers, and wine are balanced out by chewy-crispy mushrooms and by tofu that has been lightly battered and fried.

Wikipedia informs me that whereas "In the United States it is usually served with a starch, such as pasta, polenta, or rice . . . in Italy this is almost never done as veal piccata is a "secondo" (entree) and would be served after the pasta (or other starch) course."  Oh well.  I also drink cappuccinos after 10 am (and made with soy milk, no less!).

Although it's a bit complicated, what's nice about this recipe is that the "meat" isn't really the main thing; you could totally substitute any number of things in place of tofu: chickpeas, tempeh, seitan (but no thanks), fish, chicken.  What's important is the combination of temperatures, tastes, and textures.

I didn't change too much here.  I thought cornstarch might work better than Ener-G egg replacer, so I did that.  Also, Jon's doesn't carry shiitake mushrooms, and the 4 blocks to the Asian markets seemed particularly far, so I used cremini instead.  Actually, it was a little funny how both of the recipes I made for this dinner (the other of which is a mushroom, lentil, and tomato salad) used cremini mushrooms, but they were cut and cooked in different ways, so it didn't seem too redundant.

If--no, when--I make this again, I'll aim for a less sour sauce.  My dinner guest said she liked it just fine, but I thought that the sauce was too lemony, especially when paired with arugula, which is itself pretty bitter.  The more I cook, the more I realize that every dish or every meal is just about balance between yin and yang textures, flavors, colors, and sometimes temperatures.

But really, this seems like a dish that you should do according to your taste and your whims, not following a recipe, and perhaps sampling generously from the wine as you go along.  Next time.

Tofu Picatta with Mushrooms

for the tofu:
2 TB canola oil
1 block extra firm tofu, sliced and pressed
1/2 c water with 1/2 TB cornstarch dissolved in it
1/2 c flour
for the mushrooms:
2 TB Earth Balance 
3 c shiitake mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini out of necessity)
1 TB dry white wine
1 TB lemon juice
pinch salt
for the sauce:
1/2 c dry white wine (or more)
1/2 c vegetable broth (or more)
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 c lemon juice (or less)
2 tsp capers
1 TB Earth Balance
1 TB flour
several cups pasta, cooked
2-3 c arugula
3 TB parsley, chopped

1. You will need two mediumish frying pans, plus a pot for the pasta.  I used a saucier pan for the tofu/sauce instead of a normal fry pan.
2. Heat oil in a frying pan.  Dip tofu slabs in cornstarch liquid, then dredge in flour, and then fry for a few minutes on each side until lightly browned.  Remove from pan and put in oven to keep warm.
3. Deglaze the same pan with the wine and stock.  Reduce heat to low and simmer about 5 minutes.
4. In the second frying pan, melt the earth balance, then fry the mushrooms over medium heat until soft (about 5+ minutes).  Add the wine, lemon juice, and salt, and cook until the liquid is gone.  Then reduce heat to low and continue cooking until mushrooms are chewy and slightly crispy.
5. Meanwhile, finish the sauce.  Add the salt, lemon juice, and capers, then reduce heat to low.  Whisk in the earth balance, then carefully whisk in the flour.  Keep cooking on low until everything is done; thin with water if desired.
6. Adjust seasonings, then serve.  Put things on the plate in this order: greens, pasta, tofu, sauce, mushrooms, parsley.  Serves about 4. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shorbat Rumman

I've had shorbat rumman, or Iraqi "pomegranate soup," in my recipe queue for quite a while now, and I finally got around to making it.  It interests me for several reasons: I don't think I'd ever had Iraqi food.  I'd never put pomegranate molasses in a savory soup before (though it did go in these Syrian chickpeas with chard).  The recipe seemed to rely equally on herbs and on spices.  It's practically a complete meal in one dish: protein, starch, greens, beets.  And, googling this dish, I was surprised to see how incredibly consistent the recipe is (at least on the internet).  Almost every recipe was the same, plus or minus some lamb.

This is a really unique dish that combines textures (the diced beets are great!) and tastes (pomegranate molasses, cinnamon, and mint!).  (oh hey, beets and pomegranates are also happy together in this salad I made last month). However, if I make it again, I might change a few things.  First, since it looks like the recipe often has lamb in it, too, I found myself wanting more split peas both to bulk up the soup and cut the intensity of the beets, sugar, and pomegranate molasses.  You might think that two tablespoons of pomegranate molasses for six servings isn't very much, but it's a very strong, concentrated flavor.  Next time I'd skip the sugar altogether and just use the pomegranate molasses.

I think you can choose where on the stew-to-soup spectrum you want this dish.  For stew, see top photo.

Shorbat Rumman

olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 c split peas (or more)
4 c vegetable stock
1-2 red beets, peeled and diced, tops reserved and chopped
1/4 cup rice (or more)
1/2 c scallions, sliced
1 TB sugar (omit this?)
1 1/2 TB lime juice
1 TB pomegranate molasses
1/4 c parsley, chopped
1 c spinach, chopped
2 TB cilantro, chopped
salt, to taste
1/2 TB dried mint, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp black pepper mixed for garnish

1. Saute onions in a large sauce pan.  Add split peas, stir, then add stock and simmer one hour.
2. Add beets and rice, cook 30 minutes more.
3. Add scallions, sugar, lime juice, pomolasses, a pinch of salt, and parsley.  Simmer 15 more minutes.
4. Bring to a boil and add spinach and beet greens.  Reduce heat, simmer a few more minutes.  Stir in cilantro, adjust seasonings to taste, then serve, garnishing with the dried mint mixture.  Serves 3-4.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mamool (Middle Eastern Butter Cookies)

For those who have been wondering, my brother Colin finally left Egypt this past Wednesday and is now back in the US.  I know he's bummed about having to leave his program, but given the way the last few days have unfolded it seems as though he picked a very good time to go.  It's also amazing how being in the right (wrong? no, I think right) place at the right time has resulted in a network news appearance (on ABC, in D.C.), a letter to the Atlantic, a mention on NPR, and a quote in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  He has also written a new post on his blog (seriously, check it out) about his experiences living five minutes' walk from Tahrir Square, from which he has allowed me to quote:

"while walking through Tahrir on Tuesday, a Muslim Brotherhood guy gave me a cookie. I tried to politely refuse, but when he insisted, I qualified, even though I'm American? He smiled and replied, especially because you're an American. Ad infinitum, this is the anecdote I will tell about the Brotherhood."

I use this anecdote in an admittedly rather tenuous connection to the rest of this blog post, as mamool is apparently more Lebanese than anything.  We can nevertheless celebrate the power of cookies--to welcome people into one's home, to seduce their hearts and souls, and perhaps to further international understanding.  In any case, it's a pretty great story.

I think I found this recipe a while ago when I was looking for new ways to use mazaher (orange blossom water).  And Oh. My. Goodness.  These are good cookies.  Buttery and flaky but not overly sweet, they're like a shortbread cookie with a decadent and aromatic filling.  The flavor of the orange blossom water is strong without being overwhelming, and I added some almond extract to the outside dough as a counterpoint to that flavor.  I wouldn't change anything about the recipe, but I definitely could improve on my method.  For one, a google image search has informed me that mamool are usually way prettier, thanks to the help of an elegant cookie-mold-thing.  Since that was out of the question, I experimented with different methods and shapes (samosa? turnover?) before realizing that the easiest and best looking way to do it was to flatten out small portions of the dough as much as possible (see below), then put a small amount of filling in the middle of the circle, pull up the sides of the circle around the filling, pinch it closed, and then roll it as if there were nothing inside at all.

A little bit fussy, but once I got the hang of it, it was alright.  The dough was too dry, however, and I had to add a few tablespoons more liquid (soymilk and/or water) in order to get a dough that could handle all this manipulation.  I'm guessing that the tradeoff was a slightly tougher cookie, but I'm not complaining.

No eggs were called for, but I did add some cornstarch, not only as a binder, but also because the original recipe called for farina, which appears to be a more processed wheat flour product.  And again, I also added almond extract, which is one of my favorite things in the world (exhibit b: amazing almond cookies).

I also discovered a new method for melting larger amounts of butter: less fussy and more energy-efficient than using a double boiler or the toaster oven, I put the butter in a metal bowl on a cookie sheet into the oven that was preheating anyway (see photo at right)!  I guess if you have a microwave this is less of a revelation, but I don't.

Mamool (Middle Eastern Butter Cookies)

4 c white all-purpose flour
1 c sugar
1 TB orange blossom water (the original recipe suggests using rose water as a variation; I'd like to try this too)
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 c melted butter (I used Earth Balance)
1 TB soymilk, plus more as needed
2 c ground walnuts
1/4 c sugar
1 TB orange blossom water
2 TB butter, melted

1. Combine filling ingredients and set aside.
2. To make the dough, combine flour, sugar, and butter; add milk and flavoring. Knead well. Form into small patties, flatten in palm of hand; fill with 1 teaspoon filling and close tightly (see above notes for more information about how I did this).  Poke each one with a fork (is this necessary?  I'm not sure, but I thought better safe than sorry).
3. Bake in 350* oven until lightly browned on the bottom (about 10 min), then broil until tops are lightly browned.  Watch them very closely under the broiler!  I burnt about six of them because I stepped away for a minute.  If desired, sprinkle with confectioners' sugar when cool.  Makes 2-3 dozen.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Green Bean Falafel

When I was growing up, my family never ate fried food.  And, whether due to some biological instinct, to the associations with fast food, or to the very strong healthy-food prejudices of my mother, the smell of frying oil always seemed like a dirty smell, the smell of something barely edible and potentially toxic.

However, as I came to eat less and less meat, and then less and less dairy, this changed.  I think it's because a vegan diet naturally has so much less fat in it that the occasional fatty food is not only appealing, but actually nutritionally smart.  And of course, it's the "good fat," as there are no vegan sources of cholesterol and relatively few of saturated fat... so long live the tempura avocado!

Speaking of frying...

Falafel, like hummus, seems nearly infinitely adaptable (next up: sweet potato falafel).  I was intrigued when I saw a recipe for Yemeni style falafel--made with green beans!--on taste of beirut, one of the few non-vegetarian blogs I read regularly (seaweed snacks and smitten kitchen, along with some friends' blogs, are probably the others).

Given that there was no gluten and no real eggs in this recipe, I was a little doubtful that these would hold together, but they actually did.  I had a hard time getting the green beans to really blend, so they were a bit chunky.  If I were to make this again, I'd use more spices and less onion--frying takes away much of the raw taste, but they're still pretty oniony.  Using the leftover batter, I remade them the following day as slightly larger patties, brushed with oil and broiled for a few minutes right after I finished making cookies in the broiled (post forthcoming).  They were equally good this way, so as long as you use enough oil, you don't have to fry them.  Paired up with the recently posted creamy hummus, these made for some great wrap sandwiches.

Yemeni Style Falafel

1 pound of green beans (I used thawed frozen green beans)
2  jalapeño pepper, minced (and seeded if you don't want it too spicy)
1 large onion, chopped (or less--I thought this was a bit too much)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, mashed with a dash of salt (or less--I used 2 and thought it was just right)
2 eggs (I used 2 TB ground flax + 6 TB water)
1 c cornmeal 
1/2 c chopped pecans or other nuts
oil for frying

In a food processor, process green beans, then add remaining ingredients and blend well.  Form into balls or patties and fry in oil or brush with oil and broil until golden brown.  Serves about 4-5.

Hummus Remix

I recently tried my hand at the hummus recipe on the back of the package of Bob's Red Mill chickpea flour.  There's something both sneaky and satisfying in the idea of making hummus this way.  When you think about it, it's actually just reversing the steps: instead of hydrating/cooking chickpeas and then grinding them up, you're letting someone else grind them up before adding water.  The main difference is that you get a much finer grind, and a finished product that less closely resembles actual chickpeas.  The hydrated flour was sort of like pudding, or at least polenta (see right).

After blending it with all the other ingredients, it looked a lot better (see below).  I don't know that this will become my go-to hummus method; even though the grinding is done for you, you still need a pot and a blender whereas in the normal method you only need one thing.  And I'm guessing that if you use dried chickpeas in the "normal" method it's significantly more cost effective than this way.  Still, a fun change.

Creamy Hummus 
(adapted from the back of the bag of Bob’s Red Mill chickpea flour)

3/4 c chickpea flour
2 1/2 cups water
3 cloves garlic, pressed (I used 2)
1/4 c water or stock for blending
1/4 c tahini
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c olive oil
pinch of ground cumin

1. Heat water in a saucepan and whisk in chickpea flour.  Cook until it thickens (5+ min) and then remove from heat, cover, and let cool.
2. Blend everything together.  Makes about 4 c of hummus.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Sproutwheels

I think this recipe from Sketch-Free Vegan Eating is really creative, and it looks pretty.  Something about the texture of carrot, though, made the "salmon" part of the dish seem pretty dubious.  If I made this again, I would significantly tweak what went into these pastes, but I love the idea.  And yes, those are sword toothpicks.

Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Sproutwheels

2 sprouted grain tortillas
sprouts (I used alfalfa)
1 c carrot juice pulp (I used finely grated carrot)
2 TB olive oil
1 TB  lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
2 TB dulse flakes (I used chopped nori)
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1/4 c finely chopped red onion
1/4 c finely chopped parsley
Cream Cheese:
3/4 c cashews, soaked
1 TB lemon juice
1 TB water
1 TB olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

1. For each of the two sub-recipes, combine all ingredients in a food process and process until combined (obviously, take one out before making the other one). Taste and adjust condiments as necessary.
2. Trim 2 sprouted grain tortillas so that they are more squareish (I split the difference between getting a perfect square and wasting tortilla).  Warm the tortillas (they must be warm or else it will be difficult to roll), then spread a layer of cream cheese, and then spread on vegelox.  Next layer any kind of sprout (I used alfalfa), and roll. Once rolled, cut into 1 inch thick slices and secure with toothpick. Makes 12-14 pinwheels.

Oh, look, an onion.

Ad hoc stirfry with cucumbers, cilantro, and rice noodles

Last night I came home hungry to a near-empty fridge.  I decided to just put everything that might be reasonably put into a stirfry, into a stirfry.  This included, among other things, alfalfa sprouts, jalapenos, cilantro and a persian cucumber.  The cilantro and the cucumber were really great--and both the cucumber and the noodles added textures that my go-to stirfry usually doesn't have--but the sprouts really just melted down into little unfriendly clumps, refusing to interact with the other vegetables.

Ad hoc stirfry with cucumbers, cilantro, and rice noodles

First: canola, sliced scallions, sliced or minced jalapenos, (garlic would have been nice here)
Second: cubed tofu, sliced carrots
Third: sprouts, chopped cilantro, sliced cucumbers, tamari, pinch sugar, cooked rice noodles, (sesame seeds or gomasio would have been nice here)