Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Last night in LA

Well, this pretty much brings me up to when I left LA.  I flew United, and got some really bizarre but totally passable special vegan meals: dinner was a mild and tasty curry with chickpeas and sweet potatoes... topped by a slice of peach (!?) and served with Israeli couscous (?!).  It was accompanied by several slices of German rye bread (!?), Earth Balance, and a green salad with fat-free balsamic vinaigrette.  Huh?  Oh, and to top it off, some sugar-free pecan "shortbread" cookies (more like Nilla Wafers, really), that had xylitol in them.  I am a little creeped out by the xylitol, which I had to look up upon arrival.

Breakfast on board was a (quite tasty, albeit weird considering it felt like the middle of the night) pita pocket with hummus, tabouleh, and lettuce in it.  Accompanied by... more of the sugar-free cookies?!  Everyone else was served yogurt, bananas, and a pastry.  So random, but it's really nice that airlines are so willing to accommodate.


My last dinner in LA was of the clean-out-the-fridge sort.  Sarah had brought me over a bunch of squashes from someone's garden (at Wattles, actually!), and I had some other veggies lying around as well.  Most excitingly, I finally fried up that tube of polenta that had been sitting on my counter for weeks.


We made the squash along the same lines that my family often made it when I was growing up (minus the parmesan).  I parboiled the carrots ahead of time so that they'd cook evenly with the softer squash, and I used the old Western-style herbs, plus whatever was on hand.  Some sesame seeds added crunch and nuttiness.

Summer Squash and Carrots with Herbs

carrots, sliced
olive oil
garlic, minced
scallions, chopped
summer squash/zucchini/etc, sliced or quartered
fresh parsley, minced
red pepper flakes
sesame seeds

1. Parboil the carrots so that they're about the same softness as the squashes.
2. Heat olive oil in a skillet.  Add garlic, scallions, and salt, and cook until fragrant.  Then add squash and carrots and cook a few minutes.  Add herbs and red pepper flakes, and cook until veggies are tender and slightly browned, adding water as necessary.
3. Adjust salt to taste and sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving hot.  A sprinkle of nutritional yeast would also be nice.


Polenta was the real exciting discovery.  A random buy from Trader Joe's one day, this inexpensive, shelf-stable golden tube had been sitting around for weeks.  I sliced it, browned it in olive oil, and then served the crispy and succulent slices with some of the leftover enchilada sauce I'd found in my freezer.  I'd forgotten how amazing this sauce was--cumin, marjoram, and, most of all, smoky chipotles en adobo give this sauce incredible depth of flavor.  Here, that flavor was really well complemented by the textures and the mild sweetness of the polenta.  We ate it all.

Pan-Fried Polenta with Spicy Chipotle Enchilada Sauce


In other news, Devon has been practicing her wave.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Squash Kootu

I'm in London this month, so I'm just finishing up some backlogged posts before taking some time off this blog.  Check out my colleague Alex's hilarious blog, alex the american, for some tales of our time here in England.


I was cleaning out my fridge before I left town, and I had a zucchini, so I made this recipe from holy cow.  Vaishali is right: I'd never heard of a Kootu.  But it's a great vegetarian dish: featuring vegetables in a sauce made of lentils, it's sort of sneakily high in protein while focusing on the veggies.

It's also easy!  You grind up a paste of fried spices and coconut, you cook some split peas until they're totally mushy, and you lightly saute some veggies.  Then everything just goes together!  It's also super healthy: it doesn't use that much oil, and the split peas add fiber and protein.  Actually, so does the coconut.

I used zucchini instead of patty pan squash, and I omitted the curry leaves and the small amounts of dals in the masala paste.  Using the specified amounts of black peppercorns and red chilies made the dish very hot.

Zucchini Kootu
(from holy cow!)

3/4 c yellow split peas
1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil
1 TB coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 dry red chilies (or less--see above notes)
1 TB black peppercorns (or less--see above notes)
1/2 c shredded coconut
1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil
1 TB mustard seeds
2 medium squash (zucchini, summer squash, patty pan, etc), diced into very small cubes (about 1 cm)
salt to taste

1. Cook the split yellow peas until mashably soft.  (I added a pinch each of salt and turmeric)
2. Fry masala ingredients in a teaspoon of oil.  Remove, let cool, then grind into a smooth paste along with coconut.
3. Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil and add mustard seeds and curry leaves, if using.
4. Add the squash and stir-fry for about five minutes or until it starts to get tender.  (Don't cook it fully--you'll continue to simmer it in later steps)
5. Add the ground masala and the cooked split peas and stir well.
6. Add more water if the kootu is too thick and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the flavors have blended together and the squash is very tender.  Add salt to taste.  Serve hot.  Serves about 3.

Potato Tortilla

Hi everyone!   I'm in London for the next three weeks, so blogging's probably going to drop off dramatically after I finish off the backlog of posts I still have from the last week.


Of all cuisines, Spanish food is among the most mysterious, and seemingly least-vegan-friendly, to me (and I mostly know about it from my friend Christina, who had a [vegetarian] food blog while she was there... bring it back!).  But, I saw this recipe for Spanish tortilla and was like, hey, if I can make an omelette out of chickpea flour, what can possibly stop me now?

So.... I made this, and it was pretty good.  It's a nice breakfast dish because it stretches one potato a long way and adds some protein while you're at it.  A few changes to consider: since I don't have a microwave, I peeled and sliced the potato first, then boiled it briefly until slightly soft.  I also added some black salt at the end for a slightly eggy taste.  If I make this again, I would also use less lemon and nutmeg and more garlic and onion.  I'd also add some turmeric for a little more yellow color.

Spanish Potato Tortilla
(from recipes.xgfx)

1 large yukon gold potato, about 12 ounces
1/4 c chickpea flour
1 TB cornstarch
1 TB nutritional yeast, optional
1/4 tsp onion powder (or more)
1/8 tsp garlic powder (or more)
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg (or less)
1/4 tsp salt (including black salt)
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c water
1 TB fresh lemon juice (or less)
1 heaping TB minced parsley
1 TB olive oil for frying

1. Peel onion and slice into 1/4-in slices.  Boil in salted water until just pokeable with a fork (5-10 min).  Transfer the hot potato to a bowl filled with cold water to stop it from cooking.
2. In a medium sized bowl whisk together the chickpea flour, cornstarch, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, nutmeg, turmeric, salt, and black pepper. Gradually add the water while whisking to avoid lumps. Stir in the lemon juice and the parsley.
3. At this point your potato should be cool enough to handle.  Add the potato to the chickpea mixture and gently stir to coat all the pieces.
4. Heat the oil in a 9 inch non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Test the oil temperature with a drop of the chickpea mixture, the oil will be hot and ready when the drop sizzles. Carefully pour in the chickpea/potato mixture and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes.
5. Here comes the fun part! Shake the frying pan to loosen the tortilla. If it’s stuck somewhere, use a spatula to gently lift the area of the tortilla that is not coming off. When the whole tortilla is sliding with ease, slide it onto a plate. Flip the tortilla onto the frying pan, raw side down. Cook for 5 more minutes and slide the tortilla back onto the plate. Serve hot.  Serves 1-3.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Frozen Raspberry Cashew Cake

Last week I threw a little dinner party for some nonvegans and got a bit carried away.  I think part of the reason I got so excited about vegan cooking in the first place was the challenge of it.  Add to that some guests who didn't want to eat gluten or vinegar, and hey, while we're at it, I thought, why don't I avoid nightshades, too?

It ended up being a four-course meal:

Red Lentil Sesame Fritters (used rice instead of bulgur this time)

Green Salad with Green Beans, Radish, and Grapefruit-Lime Vinaigrette

Frozen Raspberry Cashew Cake (below!)


Apparently "palate cleanser" near-excuses "boring" (cf. "green salad...").  But onto cake.

This cake--I don't want to call it cheesecake, although it's clearly cheesecake-inspired--is raw and gluten free.  Um, yay.  It's also just delicious.

Sooo you got yer crust: it's just dates and almonds (and salt).  There's a strawberry-chocolate pie in The Joy of Vegan Baking (wow, just realized I never use that cookbook anymore) that has a crust like this too; it's pretty magical how simple it is.  I think a little cinnamon or nutmeg or cloves might be nice in there, too.

The creamy filling uses coconut oil.  I realized that nothing else was going to do, so I finally bought my first jar.  And actually, at Whole Foods, it wasn't as bad for the wallet as I thought it would be.  This large jar was $7, and it's a whole lot of fat in there.

This recipe only used 1/3 cup.  The stuff looks a TON like Crisco, that now-much-maligned shortening in a tub that was a constant staple in the kitchen when I was little.  I think the coconut oil has a slightly lower melting point, though, because it was really hot in my kitchen and it started melting... so "solid at room temperature" definitely depends on what room we're talking about.  I got the "refined" kind, which has a higher smoking point and no coconut odor/flavor.  I kept expecting (and wishing) it would smell coconutty, though.

This is a cake you really have to plan in advance for.  First, you need to soak the cashews at least 5 hours before making the filling.  Then, after you assemble the pie, you need it to firm up in the freezer.  And then, unless you time it perfectly, it needs to leave the freezer for a short while to get slightly softer again.  Yeah... no guar gum here, but the fact that coconut oil gets softer when it's warmer helps here.

Filling, layer one:



I was a bit nervous about this cake, because I had to use my mini-food-processor, in which I often make pestos or onion pastes.  In fact, I had just used it for that in making the onion paste for the Green Pea Soup.  And I'm all too aware of how quickly the smallest hint of onion or garlic can ruin a sweet thing (cf. Almond Butter Cream).  But I soaked all the components in baking soda and water, then washed them thoroughly with soap, and it was fine.  It just took a LOT of grinding in my sad little food processor to get it creamy enough.

The finished product was really tasty.  There was a lot of lemon juice to make it tangy, but vanilla and raspberries were also well represented.  I think 1/3 c agave was actually a bit too much (I'm an agave newbie and skeptic; I recently had a confrontation with it on this blog).  Still, this dessert was deceptively light and refreshing.  In fact, to say that it serves 8-10 feels like a bit of a stretch because we cut it in 8 pieces and could have definitely had larger pieces.  Yum.

I don't have a spring-form pan, so I used an 8-in aluminum (disposable) pie pan, because you can bend it to get the fragile pie out more easily.

Frozen Raspberry Cashew Cake

1/2 c raw almonds (pecan or walnuts will also work)
1/2 c soft Medjool dates (the dates I found at Jons were Deglet Noor dates from Tunisia; I pre-chopped them for easier processing)
1/4 tsp sea salt
consider also: cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves
1.5 c raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 5 hours, overnight is best
juice of 2 lemons
the seeds of 1 whole vanilla bean (or 1 tsp alcohol-free vanilla extract)
1/3 c raw coconut oil
1/3 c agave nectar (or honey if not vegan)
1 c raspberries (thaw completely if using frozen)

1. Place nuts and dates in a food processor with sea salt and pulse to chop until they are to your desired fineness (process a finer crust longer than a chunky one). Test the crust by spooning out a small amount of mixture and rolling it in your hands. If the ingredients hold together, your crust is perfect. Scoop out crust mixture in a 7” spring-form pan (if you don’t have a spring-form pan, use a pie plate lined with saran wrap--see notes above), and press firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed and that the base is relatively even throughout. Rinse food processor well.
2. Warm coconut oil and agave nectar in a small saucepan on low heat until liquid. Whisk to combine.
3. In the most powerful food processor / blender you own (you decide which one has the most torque) place all filling ingredients (except raspberries) and blend on high until very smooth (this make take a couple minutes so be patient). If you have a Vita-Mix, absolutely use it.
4. Pour about 2/3 (just eyeball it, you can’t make a mistake!) of the mixture out onto the crust and smooth with a spatula. Add the raspberries to the remaining filling and blend on high until smooth. Pour onto the first layer of filling. Place in freezer until solid.
5. To serve, remove from freezer at least an hour prior to eating. Run a smooth, sharp knife under hot water and cut into slices. Serve on its own, or with fresh fruit. Store leftovers in the freezer if it will be a while until you eat it, but if you will eat it the following day, the fridge is great! (what leftovers? seriouslyServes 8-10.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pomegranate-Apple Chutney/Salad

I made this dish to go with the red lentil fritters I recently posted about. I wanted something that would balance out the fritters' textural heaviness, and tasteural umaminess. This recipe was bright-tasting and crunchy, not too sweet. I liked it, but it wasn't really a chutney so much as a weird little fruit salad.

I guess it's too late in the year for pomegranates, because I couldn't find them anywhere, and in LA, that's really saying something.  TJ's did have this packaged kind... for almost $5!!  Give me a break.  No way was I buying two of those, so pomegranate chutney became pomegranate-apple chutney... which made it even less of a chutney.

In addition to subbing in some peeled and diced apple, I also skipped the honey in the original recipe (it's fruit--how much sweeter does it need to be?!), and added a little cinnamon and cumin for interest.  The salt and the olive oil also make it pair well with savory dishes.

 Pomegranate-Apple Chutney/Salad

seeds of 1 pomegranate
1 apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1 tsp lemon zest
1 TB olive oil
1 1/2 TB orange juice
dash of salt

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours prior to serving.  Serves about 4.

Friday, July 8, 2011



[Oy] vey.

This is how I am feeling about agave.  I think it is possibly the most overrated health food trend yet.  Well... acai is pretty silly too.

Anyway, I wanted to cook "super healthy" for some dinner guests recently, so I was like, maybe I can use agave instead of sugar or honey.

So I went to TJ's, got my cute little bottle of raw (oooooh raw!) blue agave, took it home... and then looked at the honey I had in the cupboard.  (Yes, I have honey.  Please don't get mad at me, vegan police.)

Wait... so the same serving of agave actually has more calories and more sugar?  That doesn't seem particularly "healthy choice"ish...

But I'd heard that agave was "supersweet and you needed to use less of it."  Well, I looked that up, and it seems that while that's true for regular ol' granulated sugar, honey and agave are actually pretty equivalent.  And since this agave is actually sweeter per serving than the honey, even if you used considerably less of it (which it seems like you shouldn't), it still wouldn't be lower sugar than the honey.  Anyway, what does "sweeter" really mean if not "actual amount of sugar"?  And if "sweetness" does just mean "actual amount of sugar," isn't this all sort of like asking what's heavier, a pound of bricks or a pound of feathers?

Ok... but I'd heard that agave is low-glycemic.  Ugh.  These numbers seem to vary a lot from unofficial website to unofficial website to unofficial website.  Are people just pulling these numbers out of their asses?  If it varies so much from website to website, does the smaller difference between agave and other sweeteners actually matter that much?  And anyway, while it would be nice to think you're avoiding blood sugar spikes, shouldn't you maybe just not eat that much sugar, period?

Then, as we fall farther down the rabbit hole, there's fructose.   Even though it sounds like "fruit," fructose doesn't seem to be particularly awesome.  High fructose corn syrup is also mostly fructose (duh).  So is fruit.  So is agave.  So is most sugar, it seems, besides brown rice syrup (maltose), which hasn't been trendy since the superdupermacro hippies found it in the 70s.  And again, these ratios vary incredibly from shitty website to shitty website.  Maybe there's more fructose (in ratio to sucrose or glucose) in agave than in granulated sugar.  I'm not sure.  And I'm no longer sure that I care.

Then, at the bottom, there's my favorite: "raw."  Now, as this blog surely makes clear, I'm totally a fan of minimally-processed foods.  But people can't even seem to agree on how processed agave is.  Just because it's processed at a low temperature--which gives it that enticing "raw" label--doesn't mean it comes right out of a cactus.  In fact, it certainly takes more processing than honey does.

Where is the reliable nutrition information on this question??  For every person who's really excited about agave, there's a naysayer out there with an equally sensational and unconvincing website.  Here are a few interesting ones:

I'm leaning towards the opinion that the agave craze is a load of trendy bunk.  And even if there is some truth to the fact that agave is better than granulated sugar, if not honey--and I respect that many vegans don't want to eat honey--surely the real bottom line is, just don't eat that much sugar.  That includes honey, agave, fruit juice, molasses, etc.  There comes a point when sugar is sugar.  Maybe you metabolize different kinds slightly differently, and yes, every person's body is different, but this is all still literally (and I don't mean this kind of "literally") sugar, and people who market super-sweet foods containing agave, honey, or fruit juice as "sugar free" aren't just assholes, they're also lying.

Now, to maybe take away from the "sugar is sugar" stance, unrefined honey and blackstrap molasses have crazy nutritional value.  Antimicrobial, antioxidant, vitamins and minerals...

...But at the end of the day, I'm going to choose my sweetener by the following criteria:

5) What's already in the recipe I'm using
4) What's cheaper and/or more ethical (i.e., I can get locally made honey for the same price as fair-trade granulated sugar)
3) Whether I'm cooking for someone who has a strong preference
2) The texture I want
1) The flavor I want

Berry Cornmeal Muffins

I've been trying to cut some of the gluten out of my cooking, mostly for the lil lady.  When I get back from spending most of July in London, I'm going to invest in some of that fancy schmancy stuff like spelt flour, brown rice flour, xantham gum, etc... but for the time being, oatmeal and cornmeal have been great friends.

(ok, yes, there is controversy about whether and when oats are gluten free)

(unfortunately it's not like this controversy)

This muffin recipe (which I found just by gooooogling) uses less wheat flour because it uses some cornmeal.  Baby steps.  Also, delicious.  I'm still using the fruit from the commercial shoot that Sarah worked on last month; this time, it was blueberries.  This muffin would have been a little bit dense and dry if it weren't for the luscious blueberries in every bite.  They were actually really great, especially with a bit of earth balance on them.

I subbed in 1/2 c wheat flour (and used 1 c white flour for the remainder).  I also used a flax egg instead of a chicken one, soymilk instead of dairy milk, and turbinado sugar instead of white sugar.  Using frozen berries meant that the muffins took considerably longer to cook (about 7 min more); the key is to watch and test frequently, even if it means that some of the muffins will have holes in them from your testing.

Berry Cornmeal Muffins

1 c white AP flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c cornmeal
1/2 c sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
zest of one lemon
1 c fresh or frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, and/or blackberries)
1 egg (1 TB ground flax + 3 TB water, allow to sit for 10 minutes before using)
1 c nondairy milk
1/4 c canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 TB turbinado sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400*  Butter or spray with a non stick cooking spray 12 muffin cups. Can also line with paper liners.
2. In a large bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. In a separate bowl combine 2 TB of this mixture with the berries.
3. In a large measuring cup or bowl whisk together the egg, milk, oil, and vanilla extract. 
4. With a rubber spatula fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are combined. Gently stir in the berries. Do not over mix the batter or tough muffins will result. 
5. Evenly fill the muffin cups with batter, using two spoons or an ice cream scoop. Sprinkle with the sugar.
6. Place in the oven and bake until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes (I used frozen berries and it took closer to 25-30 min). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 5 minutes before removing from pan.  Makes 12 regular sized muffins.


Oh hey, we also made more tempeh sausage like this.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chili Powder

My kitchen is a huge distraction.  I'll be working in my home office (no, it's not a closet), when it'll hit me: I absolutely need to make home-made chili powder right now.

I googled around looking at recipes, and this one looked pretty standard.  I used whole dried chilies instead of cayenne, and I toasted and ground the chilies and the cumin seeds.  I also added a bay leaf (also toasted and ground) for the hell of it.

Oh, and I halved the recipe to get what you see below.  My kitchen is already full of weird spice mixes (curry powder, berbere, masala, zaatar, dukkah) I haven't used up.

Garlic powder makes this different than most spice mixes, and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  I used to think it was only for the lazy and the weak, but more recently I've found it to be indispensible in places where an even texture or mildness are really important: fritters or bites or meatballs, spreads, dressings, more dressings, more dressings, spice rubs and more spice rubs, and baking (!).  Sometimes it's also just more convenient.

Here, the garlic smells delicious, but it also means that you probably can't use the chili powder in sweet things (like you can use garam masala in cookies).  I used three little red chilies, and it's really a bit too spicy.  And now I need to figure out what to do with the stuff...

 Spicy Chili Powder
(adapted from group recipes)

1-3 small dried red chilies (3 was very hot)
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 TB cumin
1/2 TB smoked paprika
1/2 TB oregano
1 TB garlic

Toast chilies, bay leaf, and cumin one ingredient at a time, allow to cool.  Grind in a spice grinder.  Then add remaining ingredients and pulse until well mixed.  Makes one small spice jar's worth.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Kushari / Colin / Khalid

I recently saw Janet's yummy-looking post on taste space about a kitchari that riffs off the original ayurvedic dish, but adds both an eastern European spin (with dill, cabbage, and carrots) and a neo-western-foodie/macro element (ginger, soy sauce, miso, quinoa--and yes, I know quinoa is actually really ancient, South American, etc...). 

It got me thinking again (as I posted about once before), about how kitchari/khichri became kedgeree (Anglo-Indian) and kushari/koshary (Egyptian)... did the British bring the dish (and its name) to Egypt, or does the cross-pollination here precede the British completely, as Clifford Wright suggests?

And then I wondered some more... where does it end?  Maybe a dish that combines a legume and a grain is one of the most basic dishes ever, anywhere.  Even wikipedia is like, "...consider also Mujaddara, Hoppin' John, and Gallo Pinto... and... and..."  I'm both cautious of and excited by the politics of a universal food culture.  In any case, it often seems that by swapping out one component for an equivalent (vinegar for citrus, pomegranate molasses for tamarind paste, mung beans or lentils for pinto beans, bulgur or quinoa for rice), you might be able to play a kind of culinary word golf across the entire world.  Which in turn means, you can have congruent dishes all over the place that actually share no ingredients! a la Theseus's ship.

In other news, my brother Colin is back in Cairo and loving it.  And eating a lot of kushari.  Interestingly, "Colin" appears to mean "young creature" in Gaelic while the Arabic name he goes by in Egypt--"Khalid"--means "immortal."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Smoked Cashew Gouda

  Then felt I like some watcher of the skies   
    When a new planet swims into his ken;           
  Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes   
    He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men   
  Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—   
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

I always knew this kind of cheese was possible--and I know many others have been here before me--but not until I finally discovered it for myself did I really believe it.

Despite the fact that they are all made principally out of cashews, it's totally different (method, taste, and texture) from cashew goat cheese and the cashew beer cheese spread.  Helped by lots of agar, this cheese is actually the consistency of a hard gouda-like cheese.  I guess I'd avoided this because it seemed like it must be difficult to make something so magical.  And that goat cheese I made last summer was really time-consuming and complicated.  This one, though, not so much!

But I'd also avoided it because agar is expensive, at least until I get my ass to an Asian grocery that sells it instead of Whole Foods.  Nevertheless, I can't imagine making a "whole" recipe (double what's below), and even with this (generous) "half" recipe, I skimped on the agar and was just fine.

This recipe pulls out all the cheesy-tasting stops: nuts, nootch, and miso.  And it's eerily successful.  I'm not sure I've ever eaten anything vegan that tastes so much like cheese.  I also added a few things: I increased the onion powder and pepper (cayenne instead of white); I also added vegan worcestershire sauce (at the suggestion of the epicurean vegan) and liquid smoke, since I was thinking of the smoked gouda I used to like so much.  For next time, I think turmeric might add some nice color.

I don't have a large food processor, so I did the first step (grinding the nuts and mixing in the dry ingredients) in my mini-processor and the later steps in a blender.  This worked perfectly, but if you have a larger food processor, by all means, just use that.  I was also worried about getting the finished cheese out of the mold, so I lined the bowl with plastic wrap.  It certainly came out easily, but I think it probably would have done so regardless; moreover, my cheese was wrinkly because of it.

The flavor?  It's spot on (and slightly spicy).  The texture is a little dry and/or grainy, perhaps like reduced fat cheese?  Not that I ate that stuff even when I did eat cheese...  I'm wondering if you could actually smoke this cheese once it's set to get it to that smoother, chewier texture.  Or perhaps it just needs to dry out a bit.  You might also adjust the milk-to-oil ratio towards more oil.

Nutritionally, I think it's actually pretty close to a similar dairy cheese in terms of calories, fat, and protein.  Maybe a bit less calcium and definitely more fiber... oh, and no cholesterol, of course.

Does it melt?  Eh... more or less.  It got really soft and mushy in the toaster oven when I heated it on top of some toast.  I ate a lot of it by itself, but it was also good on crackers.  Finally, I put it on a sandwich with sprouted rye bread, mashed avocado, pickles, dijon mustard, and greens.  WOW.

I think you could also shred it.  Yes folks, this stuff really is like cheese.  Next I'm going to make a milder version that could be used in a caprese salad.  Actually, that's how this all started--because I saw this.

Hard Smoked Cashew Cheese
(adapted from Epicurean Vegan)

5/8 c raw cashews
1/4 c nutritional yeast
1/2 TB onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch turmeric (optional)
1/2 to 1 tsp salt, to taste (depends on your miso)
1 3/4 c (unsweetened) nondairy milk
scant 1/2 c agar flakes
1/4 c canola oil
2 TB light (yellow or white) miso
1 TB lemon juice
1/2 tsp vegan worcestershire
1/8 tsp liquid smoke

1. Place cashews in a large-sized bowl of the food processor (see headnotes) and finely grind–just don’t let the cashews turn to a paste. Add nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, turmeric (if using), and salt. Pulse three more times to blend in spices.
2. In a heavy saucepan, combine milk, agar flakes and oil. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Decrease heat to low-medium, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
3. With the food processor running, gradually add milk mixture to cashew mixture. Blend for 2 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Next blend in miso, lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, and liquid smoke. It won’t take long for the sauce to start thickening up. Transfer to a mold.
4. Let it harden in the refrigerator for at least four few hours.  Serves 8-12.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Veganomicon Cookies

More recipes are on their way, I promise!  Just not today.

Because of some particular people I know and would like to bake for, I've been meaning to get into gluten-free baking for quite a while.  Unfortunately, most gluten-free baking ingredients are both more expensive and harder to get hold of than your typical glutentastic all-purpose flour.

Oats are a notable exception to these issues.  Now, I'm well aware that oats aren't exactly gluten-free, depending on both whose oats and whose bellies are concerned.  Still, it was an easy step in that direction (spelt flour, which I've only worked with once, would be another baby step).

So, I made these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies from Veganomicon.  They expanded a ton, and were crispier and more delicate than traditional cookies.  If you're making your own oat flour out of oatmeal, be sure to measure the oats after whizzing them around in the food processor, because they will definitely lose volume in the process.

"Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies" from Veganomicon


Speaking of Veganomicon cookies (of the gluten-full kind), I also made these chocolate chocolate chip cookies from the same cookbook after reading about them on eggless cooking.  I used chopped almonds instead of walnuts because a certain chocolate cookie monster doesn't like walnuts.  These were delicate and fudgey, but they got stale rather quickly.

based on "Chocolate-Chocolate Chip-Walnut Cookies" in Veganomicon


And... a random dinner: vegetable sushi (with carrots, avocado, chives, and cucumber filling), sauteed kale (with garlic, ginger, lemon, sesame oil, and sesame seeds), and Celeste's mushroom leek soup.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Chocolate Sorbet

When I go to Scoops, I always pass over the sorbets and head right for the rich and creamy soy- or coconut-based ice creams.  When there are other choices, why would I choose something that feels like the impoverished version of ice cream?  Something that is elsewhere my only vegan option?  And it often feels as though ice cream places know their sorbets are less exciting, because they overcompensate for the boringness by making them far too sweet.  Hm.  No thanks.

But.  There's an exception.  (who knew I had so many rules about frozen treats!)  I also scoff at chocolate ice cream, because it's never chocolatey enough.  I'm someone who never went for milk chocolate over dark chocolate even before going vegan.  And as it turns out, sorbet is the answer.  Yeah, it has (nonGM) corn syrup and a healthy serving of emulsifiers (?), but Double Rainbow's chocolate sorbet (sold at Trader Joe's) is totally awesome.  Pretty much nothing but cocoa and sugar, and yet (because its so flavorful and so cold) as satisfyingly chocolatey as a bar of dark chocolate.  It's like the best fudgsicle you ever had, without all the nasty crap.  Virtually fat-free, blah blah blah... I feel like this is an advertisement!  But really I'm just noting an epiphany that I had.  Maybe sorbet isn't always characterized by deprivation or overcompensation.

Also, if you have an ice cream maker, Hannah at Bittersweet just posted a recipe for chocolate sorbet.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Red Lentil Sesame Fritters

Joumana of Taste of Beirut does it again.  It's interesting how, with the exception of the occasional lamb- or cheese-based recipe, this blog comes closer to my tastes than many vegan blogs.  I love how her blog creatively mixes traditional Lebanese foods with other global influences.

I veganized this recipe for flavorful, falafel-like fritters by using flaxseed instead of egg; I also made it gluten-free with chickpea flour instead of wheat flour (rather like in the case of the tempeh meatballs).  (edit, 7/8/11: d'oh...except for the bulgur!  I made this again and used more rice in place of the bulgur)  I'd recommend pre-cooking the lentils and grains in advance, because you won't want to handle them while they're still hot; moreover, the batter won't be as (problematically) wet if the grains sit and absorb some liquid while cooling off.  I skipped the step of pre-cooking the garlic and herbs; I don't think it was necessary: there wasn't so much garlic as to be a problem raw.

When I finally got around to shaping the fritters, it was eerily like making these cookies: rolling the dough in a ball, then coating it in sesame seeds!  The final texture is pretty amazing: although the rice and bulgur make the insides a bit more varied (sort of like in oats and rice sausage), overall it's fluffier and lighter than a falafel, and the seame seeds on the outside give it an additional crispiness.

The flavors are equally exciting.  Besides the usual cumin-coriander-garlic, the chipotle and caraway in the harissa add complexity, as does the pretty generous amount of dried mint.  These guys are all balanced out by more sour flavors of lime zest (!), extra lemon juice, and, yes, sumac.  I was sort of put off of sumac when I bought it ages ago and used way too much of it, but here I halved it and proceeded with caution, and it was great!  Just a little extra funky-sour flavor.

Joumana suggests pairing these fritters with a cold salad of tomatoes and feta.  I agree that they'd go well with something fresh and slightly sour.  Perhaps a cold chutney or salsa of sorts?  The first time I had these they were paired (happily) with the Moroccan Carrot Salad and the Green Pea Soup; the second time it was just with salad (as pictured below).

Red Lentil Fritters
(adapted from taste of beirut)

1 c red lentils, cooked in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes till soft.
1/2 c bulgur (#1), soaked in hot water 10 minutes, then drained and squeezed of the extra water.
3/4 c (short grain brown) rice, cooked
1 large (flax) egg (1 TB ground flax + 3 TB water; combine and let sit for 10 minutes before using)
1/2 c (chickpea) flour
2 scallions, minced (can substitute shallot) (optional)
2 TB of harissa (can substitute red pepper paste of your choice or chili paste)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp sumac (optional)
2 TB powdered dried mint
Rind of zest of an orange or a lemon or a lime, chopped
lemon juice to taste
salt and pepper to taste (I didn't add any, but it depends on how much salt you cooked the lentils and grains with and how spicy your harissa is)  
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 c minced cilantro
1/2-1 c minced Italian parsley (1 c was a little too much; interfered with cohesiveness of batter)
1 c of sesame seeds (can substitute pistachios, pecans or walnuts, chopped fine)
oil for frying, as needed
1 or 2 lemons, quartered

1. Place the cooked (and drained) lentils in a large bowl. Add the drained bulgur, rice, egg, flour, minced scallions, harissa and other spices, rind of a citrus and toss well to combine. Heat a little olive oil in a small skillet, throw the mashed garlic and minced herbs and stir to combine the mixture for no more than 10 seconds. Remove and add to the lentil mixture and toss.  (I took a short cut by simply adding in the garlic and herbs without pre-frying them).

2. Shape the fritters with an ice-cream scoop (or your hands) and dip in the sesame seeds or other nuts.
3. Heat some oil in a pan (about one inch) and when hot (at 350F to 375F), drop the fritters and cook about 3 minutes on one side and one minute on the other. Place on a plate lined with paper towels.   Serve hot with lemon wedges.  Serves about 6.