Friday, April 29, 2011

Green Curry Noodle Soup

How many green things are in this soup?
  • serrano peppers
  • scallions
  • limes
  • squash
  • mustard greens
  • collard greens
  • turnip greens
  • spinach
  • cilantro
  • mint
  • basil
  • (note to self: next time, garnish with diced avocado and make the lime-cilantro-avocado trifecta complete!)
Yes, friends, this is a very green soup.  It is also ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.

Fragrant, tangy, savory, interesting, filling, a complete meal, yet light-tasting... this goes in the soup hall of fame.

It's also a very flexible recipe.  You make the broth, adjust it to your taste, then strain it and add whatever you want.  This time, I omitted the lemongrass and the corn, reduced the chilies, subbed onion for shallot and mixed greens for spinach.  Then I added squash, heart of palm, and cooked soba noodles.  You know... you're not going to mess it up.

I also made some changes in the method: I toasted and ground the spices before adding them to the cooking oil, and I sauteed the tofu, squash, and heart of palm separately before adding them to the soup.

Green Curry Noodle Soup
(adapted from 101 cookbooks)

1 TB coriander seeds
1 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 TB olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
2+ small serrano chile peppers, thinly sliced
a 1 1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled then grated
8 green onions, trimmed, thinly sliced
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 c lime juice and a bit of zest
6-7 c vegetable broth
1 block tofu, cut into tiny cubes
3-4 long pieces heart of palm, cut into little bits
squash (I used 3 small Mexican squash but you could also use 1-2 zucchini), cut into half-moon slices
4 handfuls of chopped greens (I used the Trader Joe's bagged variety of mustard greens, collards, etc)
1-2 servings soba noodles, cooked
a small handful of each of the following: fresh mint, fresh cilantro, fresh basil, chopped
lime juice, salt, and cayenne to taste
optional diced avocado as a garnish

1. Lightly toast cumin and coriander.  Grind.
2. In a large pot, heat olive oil, then add toasted spices.  Cook 30 seconds, then add onion, garlic, chilies, ginger, scallions, and turmeric.  Cook over medium high heat 5+ minutes.
3. Add lime juice, zest, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5+ minutes.
4. In a frying pan, lightly saute tofu, heart of palm, and squash.  I first browned the tofu on its own before adding the other veggies, which I left still crisp.
5. Strain broth and discard onion etc.  Return broth to pot and bring back to a simmer.  Add saute mixture and chopped greens.  Simmer about 5 minutes (til squash is tender but not mush), then add cooked noodles and herbs.  Adjust flavors to taste and serve.  Perhaps garnish with avocado.  Serves about 6.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sweet Potato Falafel and Friends

Whole spices are one of the most beautiful things I can think of.  They're up there with mountains and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

I made harissa again!  This time I used more chipotle peppers in the mix.  It's spicier than I remember... goodness gracious, is it spicy!

I'm excited about using it in this spicy harissa split pea soup, but the first thing I did with it was mix it into a little baba ganoush with mint.  This was a very good thing.

I also braved very high temperatures today in order to make these baked sweet potato falafels from 101 cookbooks.  It sounded totally amazing, right?  Falafel based on sweet potatoes, and a chance to use my chickpea flour?!

So why were these so underwhelming?  I think they needed more fat!  Olive oil, tahini, something!  Perhaps fried this recipe would be good, but baked, it just seemed kind of heavy and clay-ey.  No amount of lemon and cilantro could change that.  Alas.

I had them with a bootleg tahini sauce (tahini, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder, olive oil, water).

Baked Sweet Potato Falafel

2 medium sweet potatoes (orange inside), around 700g or 1 1/2 pounds in total
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 small cloves of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 big handfuls of fresh cilantro/coriander, chopped
juice of half a lemon
a scant cup chickpea flour
salt and pepper (I used cayenne)
a splash of olive oil
a sprinkling of sesame seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 425F degrees (220C) and roast the sweet potatoes whole until just tender - 45 minutes to 1 hour. Turn off the oven, leave the potatoes to cool, then peel.
2. Put the sweet potatoes, cumin, garlic, ground and fresh coriander, lemon juice and gram/chickpea flour into a large bowl. Season well, and mash until smooth with no large chunks (I actually did this in a mini food processor).  Stick in the fridge to firm up for an hour, or the freezer for 20-30 minutes. When you take it out, your mix should be sticky rather than really wet. You can add a tablespoon or so more of chickpea flour if necessary (the water content of sweet potatoes varies enormously).
3. Reheat the oven to 400F/200C. Make the mixture into falafelly looking things (I just used my hands, as if I were making cookies) and put them on an oiled tray. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes, until the bases are golden brown.  Makes about 18 falafel, enough for 4 - 6.


In other news?  It is spring in my sink!!  A mung bean must have fallen under the dish drainer... and yes, I know I need to do some serious cleaning.  That's why this is at the bottom of the post.  :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lemon Garlic Chickpeas and Mushrooms

This recipe from the post punk kitchen was really simple and delicious; I'll definitely be making it again.

Sauteeing and then simmering the mushrooms gives them an amazing chewy texture, and the mushrooms and thyme give the dish a savory, Thanksgiving-y flavor, but the lemon adds a little twist to that familiar flavor combination.  I treated it like a stroganoff and ate it with whole wheat rotelle, but it would be equally at home with some brown rice.

I made several small changes of convenience: dried for fresh thyme, chickpeas for favas, button mushrooms for creminis, white onion for red, etc.  I'm not sure I used 3 full cups of chickpeas, which might have been the reason that the final dish was a little too salty.  In any case, I'd recommend using less stock and then adding salt as needed at the end.

Finally, there wasn't all that much of a lemon flavor after cooking it so long.  Consider adding the lemon juice and zest at the end, right before serving.

Lemon Garlic Fava Beans and Mushrooms
(from the ppk)

2 tsp olive oil
1 small red onion, cut into thin half moons
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
pinch salt
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced in half
2 TB breadcrumbs
2 c vegetable broth (or sub in some water if you're worried about saltiness--see above note)
juice and zest of 1/2 a lemon
lots of fresh black pepper
3 c cooked chickpeas (or two 15 oz cans, rinsed and drained)
slivered green onions, additional zest for garnish (optional)


1. Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Saute onion in oil with a pinch of salt for 5 to 7 minutes, until slightly browned. Add garlic, thyme, and pinch salt, and saute one minute. Add mushrooms and cook to release moisture, about 5 minutes.
2. Add bread crumbs, toss to coat everything and toast crumbs for 3 to 5 minutes. Add veg broth, black pepper, lemon zest and juice and beans (consider adding lemon juice and zest later, at the end). Bring to a boil. Let reduce and thicken, 7 minutes or so. Taste for salt and seasoning and serve, topped with green onions.  Serves about 4.


What do I eat when I'm not trying new recipes?  Well, for one, I eat a lot of quick stir-fries with a starch, a protein, and a green, like this one (at right) of collards (with onion and garlic), chickpeas, and soba noodles, with tamari and chili-garlic paste.  If you use canned chickpeas it's almost instant.

And I also eat a lot of leftovers, sometimes recombined.  For example, after last week's recipes, I had the following:

On the left, a green salad made with that wheatberry pilaf with eggplant and cashews--rather incongruously accompanied by marinated tofu--and on the right, lemony legume soup, at home at last with avocado and cilantro.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wheat Berry Pilaf with Roasted Eggplant and Cashews

Ever since I started making the ol' Mediterranean wheat berry salad, I have really loved wheat berries.  They're perhaps the only whole grain I find as texturally satisfying (whoa, say that carefully) as pasta.  High in protein and fiber, too, they make me very sad for gluten-intolerant people. 

I've had this unusual pilaf from holy cow in my "to try" file for ages, and the other day, when I made the lemony legume soup, it was finally time.  Like the soup, this dish was built on certain Indian flavors (mustard seeds, cashews, raisins) but with quite the unorthodox twist.  I try to keep my consumption of inflammatory nightshade veggies (like eggplant and tomato) to a minimum, but sometimes I cannot resist their deliciousness.  The roasted eggplant was delicious, and between that and the chewy wheat berries, crunchy cashews, and refreshing tomatoes, it was quite a texture fiesta. I omitted the rosemary and raisins that Vaishali's recipe originally called for, but it was still a very unusual dish.  I found myself hankering for a little more acidity in it, though, to balance out the savory, toasty flavors of the wheat berries, eggplant, toasted cashews, and mustard.  The tomatoes weren't quite enough--I'd like to try adding some lemon or lime juice as well.  An avocado would also be a great addition.

Wheat Berry Pilaf with Roasted Eggplant and Cashews
(from holy cow)

1 c wheat berries
1 medium eggplant, 3/4-in dice
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garlic powder (next time, I'd try real minced garlic)
salt to taste
2 tsp vegetable oil, like canola
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 TB cashew nuts, chopped
1 tsp garam masala powder or curry powder
4 small tomatoes or two medium ones, cut into pieces
lemon or lime juice to taste
salt to taste

1. Cook the wheatberries until soft but not broken open.  Drain and set aside.
2. In a baking dish, toss together the eggplant, 1 tsp oil, cayenne, turmeric and garlic powder.  Place in a 400-degree oven and bake, stirring occasionally or until the eggplant is really creamy and tender (this took me 25-30 min). 
3. Heat the remaining oil in a skillet.  Add the mustard seeds and, when they crackle, add the cashew nuts.  Toast until they begin to just color. Add garam masala and toss to heat through.
4. Now add the cooked wheat berries and eggplant and stir well to mix. Add salt to taste. Turn off heat.
5. Stir in the tomatoes, and sprinkle with lemon or lime juice.  Serves about 4.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lemony Legume Soup!

While I was sifting through google reader, Janet's red lentil and lemon soup caught my eye.  Simple, nutritious, hearty yet fresh-tasting, and of course delicious.  The tomato paste gives the soup a slightly different flavor, but the lemon and cilantro dominate, balancing out the cumin.  Perfect for a cool, cloudy day like today.

When I went to write this post, however, I wondered... how many lentil soups have I blogged about?  Is lentil soup a vegan cliche?  I've got coconut red lentil soup, soup of greens and lentils, and spite soup... and that's not to mention the countless stewier dishes, which include a coconut-lentil stew, eggplant-lentil stew, Ethiopian lentil stew, a sambar, sausage-spiked lentil-apple stew, tamarind lentils, lentil chili with coconut milk, and red lentil coconut curry.  And salads, including apple, lentil, and wild rice salad, spanish lentil and mushroom warm salad, marinated broccoli lentil salad, and warm savory lentil salad.  Which is not to mention some other dishes in which lentils play a large role, such as kushari, spicy eggplant squash lentil stew (dhansak), and lentil loaf.  Or dishes which use other legumes that could easily be lentils, like chickpea-eggplant stew with kale and harissa, dal with ginger and lime, ginger-sesame dal, and matar tofu paneer dal.

But you know what?  There are many reasons for the ubiquity of lentil soups.  Deliciousness, easiness, cheapness, nutritiousness, versatility, ultimate comfort-foodiness!  And each of those recipes is different from the others (I think..).

As it turned out, I didn't have any red lentils, so I used yellow split peas, which I thought would more closely replicate the creaminess of red lentils than would brown lentils.

Lemony Legume Soup
(from "Red Lentil and Lemon Soup" from taste space)

3 TB olive oil, more for drizzling
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp kosher salt, more to taste
cayenne to taste
1 TB tomato paste
4 c vegetable broth
1 c red lentils or yellow split peas
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
juice of 1/2 lemon, more to taste
3 TB chopped fresh cilantro

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil.  Saute onion several minutes, then add garlic and continue cooking.  Add cumin, salt, and cayenne, and continue cooking.
2. Add tomato paste, stock, split peas, and carrot.  Simmer until peas are very soft (more than 30 minutes). 
3. Allow to cool, then puree.
4. Reheat soup and add lemon juice and cilantro.  Serves 4.

Agar Shots

This post is tagged under "sweets" and "beverages," but it's neither sweet nor exactly a beverage.  I'd been curious for a long time about this North American delicacy called the Jello shot, which is apparently consumed at festive occasions to produce a state of intoxication.  Actually, I was just trying to think of other things to do with agar, having already used it in kantens and in panna cotta.

The good (?) news: yes, you can make alcoholic jello out of agar.  The bad news: this tasted really bad.  Really bad.  I think it needed far more sugar, and a different kind of juice would have made that easier.  I used 1.5 TB sugar, which was definitely not enough, considering you're balancing out not only the lemon juice but also the booze.

I also don't have shot glasses.

Agar Shots (Lemon)

1/2 c lemon/orange juice
1/2 c water (or less?)
1/4 c sugar (or to taste)
1.5 TB agar flakes (or more?)
1/2 c ice cold vodka

1. Heat the juice, water, and sugar, dissolving the sugar.
2. Reduce heat, then add agar flakes.  Cook about 5 minutes to dissolve agar.
3. Set aside, let cool, and then mix with vodka.  Chill in the fridge for an hour or so.  Serves about 4.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Wheatberry "Paella" with Chickpeas

Umm this has a very tenuous relationship to 'real' paella, but I'm going to go with it anyway.  Peppers, capers, and lemon juice give this stew a more tangy flavor than your average tomato-oregano thing.  I added some more veggies to Isa's recipe for a complete meal.

Let's see... I had no leeks, so I just used an onion... and I threw in some zucchini and carrot as well.  Otherwise, I mostly followed the recipe.  I'm not sure I liked how sour it was, but it was super saffrony! which was aromatic, not to mention indulgent.

Wheatberry "Paella" with Chickpeas

1/2 tsp saffron threads
1/2 c boiling water
1 c wheatberries
1 bay leaf
olive oil
1/2 onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 c dry white wine (Chardonnay is great)
1/2 tsp salt
1 c vegetable broth
1 TB tomato paste
1 carrot, diced
2 small zucchinis, diced
2 roasted red peppers, jarred or homemade, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1-2 c drained, cooked chickpeas (one 15 oz can should work)
4 tsp capers (too much?)
2 TB fresh lemon juice
lots of fresh black pepper

1. Pour boiling water over saffron and let sit. 
2. In a small saucepan, bring to boil wheatberries and water.  Boil 2 minutes, then turn off heat, cover, and let sit.
3. In a larger saucepan, heat oil and saute onion, then add garlic and cook some more.  Add spices, wine, and salt, and cook some more.  Add broth, tomato paste, veggies, and bay leaves, and reduce heat and simmer for 30+ minutes.  Add wheatberries (drained) and saffron water.  Late in the game, add chickpeas.  Just before serving, add capers, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.   Serves about 4-5.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Berbere musings

Remember when I made berbere and it was awesome?  Yeah, me neither, or just barely.  But the stuff I made nearly ten months ago is still really fragrant and potent, sitting in my spice annex, waiting for me to return, like some Mariana lady in a moated grange (whatever that is)Anyway, you may remember the berbere from an Ethiopian lentil stew, or even the less traditional berbere-encrusted tempeh.

And now...this special, spicy curry powder, with strong notes of fenugreek and cinnamon, tastes amazing on popcorn (with a little salt).  It goes on the popcorn topping list, along with dukkah and all the earlier toppings.

Berbere also rocked in this tempeh scramble, which I made by frying onions, garlic, and berbere, then adding tempeh and salt.  Done.  Pictured with whole wheat lavash and avocado.

But I have to be honest, folks.  This blog has been suffering.  Now, I've been cooking, sure.  I've made a lot of simple dishes like this one, or like fried greens with Indian spices, or rice pilafs.  And I've done some repeat recipes like dal with ginger and lime.  I tried out these Spaghetti-nos with mini lentil meatballs (and forgot to take any photos!).  But after two and a half years of a passionate relationship, this blog and I have been going through our first rough patch.  Inspiration and recommendations are always welcome, but more now than ever.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lemony Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

People who say there are no seasons in LA are stupid (don't get me started on the people who say there's "no public transportation" in LA!).  Signs of spring are everywhere, from the blooming purple trees on Virgil avenue (no, they're not jacarandas yet)--which followed the magnolias on campus--to the languid restlessness of my new students ("Why are we weigh'd upon with heaviness, / And utterly consumed with sharp distress, / While all things else have rest from weariness?"), to... the ubiquity of asparagus!

Yes, no matter how mild your climate, it seems that asparagus = springtime.  In this past week, not only did I start to see California asparagus at the grocery store, but I also saw one post on asparagus recipes over at the Native Foods blog, and another one at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs.

This recipe is easy and tasty!  The sun-dried tomatoes add sweetness and chewiness to balance out the lemon and the crispy asparagus.  Chickpeas mean it's basically a one-dish meal.

Lemony Pasta with Roasted Asparagus and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

2 servings whole wheat rotelle pasta
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 sun-dried tomatoes, drained and sliced in strips
1 c chickpeas
red pepper flakes

1. Cook pasta.  Drain and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 450*.  Place asparagus in a roasting pan; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and garlic.  Roast for about 10 minutes, stirring once, until vegetables are slightly tender.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.
3. Cut asparagus into bite-sized pieces.  Toss pasta, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, and chickpeas.  Add salt and red pepper flakes, and serve with lemon wedges or sprinkle with lemon juice.
Serves about 3.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Experimental Sushi

Sooo recently I made these stuffed collard greens, and I had a ton of filling left over.  After just eating the filling on its own for a meal or two, I thought, yes! clearly I must make experimental sushi!  Never mind that it was 10:30 am.  So I did, and it was delicious!  It was actually better (and easier) than the original stuffed collards.  I still used standard miso-tahini sauce with these, and it went really well with the flavor of the nori. 

The experimental sushi was followed by a rather experimental haircut, which didn't go quite as well, but unlike most food things, haircuts can be works in progress, so it's okay.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Stuffed Collard Leaves

Recently I made this recipe for collard green wraps from epicurean vegan.  Well, more or less.  The recipe is so flexible that I had a ship of Theseus kind of situation.  I changed tofu for tempeh, scallions for onion, great northern beans for chickpeas and cannellinis, presumably white rice for brown rice, and salt for tamari.  In spirit, though, it was still the dish.

As usual (I didn't even bother to POST my grape leaves escapades) I had issues rolling the leaves.  Somehow I managed to be off by 90*, which I'm sure didn't help, because I was fighting against the big spine down the middle the whole way.  Still, this is how I did it:

Leaf with thick part of stem cut out, filling placed just so:

Bottom flaps folded up:

Sides folded in, then rolled up from the bottom:

Some of them stayed together just great, but others didn't.  As with my grape leaf adventures, I'm not sure it was worth the work.

I also used good ol' miso-tahini sauce instead of tahini-umeboshi.  I tried so hard to get into umeboshi back when I was trying to kick my zantac habit back in '08, but it never really stuck with me.  (by the by, reducing coffee intake and stress did the job just fine).  Miso-tahini is the most perfect condiment in the world, I think.  Its umamitasticness complements the bitterness of the collards, as does its wetness for the relative dryness of the filling.

One last thing: before you make the filling, ask yourself: do you really want 12 stuffed collards?  Do you have 12 collards?  After realizing that a few of the leaves in my bundle were ripped or too small, I only had 6.  The copious amount of leftover filling served several other functions, about which I'll post laster...

Stuffed Collard Leaves (shown with Miso-Tahini Sauce)

12 collard green leaves, washed and patted dry
1-2 tsp olive oil 
8-oz firm tempeh, sliced into thin strips
1 onion, diced
2 tsp garlic, minced
3/4 lb (?) mushrooms, sliced
15oz canned beans, drained
1 c short grain brown rice, cooked
tamari and pepper, to taste

1. Heat a little oil in a skillet.  Fry tempeh until medium browned.  Remove and set aside.  Heat some more oil.  Fry up onion, then add garlic and mushrooms.  Then add beans, rice, and tempeh.  Season with tamari and pepper, and set aside.
2. Roll up collards with filling as shown above.  Fasten with toothpicks, and steam for a few minutes until collards change color.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Serve with miso-tahini sauce.  Makes about 12 wraps (duh).