Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I just created a folder for photos on my computer that’s called "Los Angeles Year Four."  Really?

So, I'm recently excited about British-style Indian food.  It may have started when I went to this new restaurant in my neighborhood, LA Bengal Dynasty (silly name award?) (hi, unicorn!).

And in my own kitchen, so far I have tried a dish related to the balti (below), which may or may not actually come from Birmingham, and a kind of  tikka masala, another dish of ambiguous origins which makes me think, "Of course, the English add cream to everything!" 

In this recipe, I made a half batch.  But I also threw in a TON of greens and cauliflower, which I think diluted the flavor too much.  I ended up adding a bunch of chili garlic paste to finish out the dish, but I think that might have had to do with how generous I was with the cauliflower and the greens.

Cauliflower, Chickpea, and Greens Balti
(adapted from taste space)

vegetable oil
ginger, grated
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 onion, chopped
1/2 c water
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 bay leaf
2 cardamom pods, broken slightly open
3/4 tsp salt
coconut or vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 in piece ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 head cauliflower, in florets
1.5 cups cooked chickpeas (or 15 oz canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained)
1 tsp salt
2 bunches of greens, stemmed and coarsely chopped (400g, prepped)
1/2 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
2 tsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp garam masala

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, then add the ginger and garlic and stir.
2. Add the onions and stir-fry for five minutes until they are translucent.
3. Add the water and bring to the boil.
4. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients, cover and simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes.
5. Remove the bay leaves and cardamom, and reserve the sauce.
6. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large wok (I used the same saucepan as above since it was relatively clean) then add the onions and fry gently until they begin to turn brown.
7. Add the ginger and garlic, stir well, and cook for one minute.
8. Add the tomatoes, cauliflower, chickpeas, salt and balti sauce.
9. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer until the cauliflower is just tender, about 10-15 minutes.
10. Add the chili flakes and greens and stir-fry for three more minutes until the greens have wilted down.
11. Stir in the cilantro.
12. Just before serving, sprinkle the garam masala on top.  Add chili garlic paste and salt to taste.  Serve with naan bread or chapatis. Or rice.
Serves about 4.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Harissa Lentil Fritters

This week, this blog and I each turn a year older.  That I've only been blogging for two years sometimes seems surprising, given how it's been an aspect of my life for most of the time I've been in LA (that first year was a blur), and how that LA time is starting to feel like quite a while.  The blogosphere of readers and other bloggers is a great community--one which has helped me to grow as a cook and a writer.

Are these burgers?  Fritters?  (wikipedia not helpful) I'm not sure, but they are a bit like these red lentil sesame fritters, soooo I'm gonna go with "fritter."

I omitted the peppers, as I am wont to do.  But the batter was SO lentiltastic that then I started adding other stuff to dilute it: I more than doubled the walnuts, added 1/4 c chopped mint leaves, and then, since I was on a sort of manic middle-eastern kick, I also added 1/4 c dates.  Yum!

Since I let the batter sit in the fridge overnight for convenience' sake, it got very firm and sticky on its own, and I didn't need much cornstarch.  I did, however, need way more breading than called for.

These were good, but I was relieved that the harissa and mint livened up what would have otherwise been a pretty bland burger.  And it definitely needed some lemony tahini sauce.  In fact, the second time i ate these, I made a sandwich with a tahini sauce that included not only tahini, miso, lemon juice, and water, but also some more harissa.  It was the most delicious thing; it totally made the sandwich.

Harissa Lentil Fritters
(adapted from akshayapaatram)

2 c brown lentils, rinsed 
1/2 c chickpeas, pre-soaked and cooked with a bay leaf 
1/2 c walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/3 c diced onion (about 1/2 an onion)
1/3 c diced carrots (about 2 carrots)
1/4 c mint leaves, finely chopped
1/4 c dates, soaked, drained, and chopped
1-2 TB cornstarch
2 TB harissa 
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2-1 c bread crumbs (I used panko)
1-3 TB sesame seeds
2-3 TB vegetable Oil

1. In a saucepan combine lentils (reserving ½ cup) and 2.5 cups water along with a bay leaf. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer covered for about 30-40 mins until done. About 10 mins in, add the reserved 1/2 cup of lentils and continue to cook. At the end of cooking time when the initial batch of lentils are tender and yield when pressed between your fingers, the 1/2 c added later will retain some bite and add texture to the burger. Drain the lentils into a colander and set aside to draw out any leftover cooking liquid.
2. In the mean time, heat 1 TB of oil and sauté onions and carrots until slightly softened.
3. To a mixing bowl add the cooked chickpeas and mash them completely using your hand or a potato masher. Add salt, pepper, harissa paste, cooked lentils, sautéed veggies and mash them together to form a dense mixture. If you feel that it’s a little loose add corn starch, 1 TB at a time as needed to get the desired consistency. You should be able to form a patty that holds together.  I left the lentils in the fridge overnight, and they got way drier/stickier.
4. Mix bread crumbs and sesame seeds and spread evenly on a plate. Coat the formed patties lightly on both sides with this mixture and arrange them on a plate to rest.
5. Once all the lentil patties are formed cover the plate with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15-20 mins. This will help the lentil mixture to bind and hold together when cooked in the next step.
6. Heat a cast iron/non stick sauté pan with some oil and crisp them slightly on both sides until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and toasted. Since all the ingredients in the mixture were pre-cooked a few minutes on each side will do.
7. Use the patties to assemble a burger or cool completely and transfer to freezer bags and freeze for later.  See above for serving suggestions.  Made at least 15.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Not only did I recently make succotash, I also made socca!  A kind of chickpea-flour-pancake-thing, this was way better than I anticipated.

I made about a 1/3-1/4 recipe; the limiting factor was the small amount of chickpea flour I had, but this ended up being the perfect amount for one or two.  However, the baking time was way less--I used a loaf pan, and the socca was only 2/3 inches thick; it was finished cooking in 30 minutes.

The texture was creamy and crispy, depending on what part you were eating.  The flavors were understandably simple, but the onion and fennel really made the dish worth eating.  It paired surprisingly well with pozole or some other kind of chili-like stew, filling in for cornbread with a way higher protein content.

Fennel Farinata, Socca or Chickpea Pizza

1-1.25 c chick pea flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c water
1 TB olive oil
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
fresh ground pepper

1.  Put the chick pea flour in a bowl, add the water a little at a time, stirring well.
2.  When smooth and about the consistency of pancake batter, add the salt.
3.  Cover and leave for a minimum of 4 hours at room temperature, or overnight if more convenient.
4.  When ready to bake farinata/socca, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
5.  In a small loaf pan, pour enough olive oil to cover the surface. Stir the batter and pour it into the pan. Again stir it well, so that the oil and batter are well incorporated.
6. Scatter sliced onions and sprinkle fennel seeds on top.
7. Bake the farinata for 30 minutes until the top is golden and crusty.
8. Serve it hot, sprinkled with freshy milled pepper, and cut into slices.  Serves about 6.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Yeah, the HEAT WAVE IS OVER!  Thank goodness.  In keeping with the corn/tomato theme, this soup was my first response to a cool-ish morning.  I've been curious about hominy forever, and I think this was actually my first experience cooking with it.  It has the most distinctive flavor.

But HANG ON A MINUTE.  My sources tell me that pozole once traditionally contained human flesh.  So, in a way, as with these witches' finger cookies, this is an instance of vegan cannibalism, which gets me really excited for reasons that may or may not have to do with an embryonic dissertation topic.  Cannibalism reminds us that everyone--not just veg*n, allergic, kosher, or halal people--draws lines about what's okay to eat and what isn't.  And cannibalism is often vegetarianism's shadow-discourse, like in Melmoth the Wanderer (1820), where the noble vegan savage hears about meat-eating with a shock and disgust (the narrator tells us) that we Westerners would have to hear about cannibalism.  Or in Matthew Lewis's Journal of a West Indian Proprietor (1815-18), in which (Lewis tells us) Jamaican slaves refuse to eat vegetables that grow near the burial ground of white people, fearing some kind of physical or spiritual contamination, and in which exotic fruits and vegetables are described as horrifying human body parts, while things like sea turtle and crocodile are simply interesting new foods.  There's far too much to be said about this (and about how I want to make something like this!).  For now, let's talk about soup.

The original recipe called for a poblano pepper, but I think I ended up with a pasilla?   In any case, it wasn't very spicy, so I had to add a serrano as well.

I also--for once--found the soup to be too acidic, so I added a TB of sugar to mellow it out.

Quick Red Posole with Beans

2 TB olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large poblano chile (I ended up using a pasilla chile and a serrano)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
red chile powder, such as ancho, to taste
1 (24-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice, or 2 pounds very juicy fresh plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 (15-ounce) can pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed, or 2 cups cooked
1 (15-ounce) can white cooked hominy, drained and rinsed, or 2 cups cooked
1 c Mexican light-colored beer or vegetable broth
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
1 TB lime juice
1 TB sugar
Optional Garnishes: chopped fresh cilantro, thinly sliced radishes, chopped fresh tomato, ripe avocado, lime wedges.

1. In a large pot, combine the oil and garlic over medium heat. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the onion and poblano chile. Stir and cook until the vegetables are softened and the onion is translucent, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Add the cumin, oregano, and chile powder and fry for another minute.
3. Now add the diced tomatoes with juice, beans, hominy, stock, and salt. If using fresh tomatoes, you may want to add more beer, water, or vegetable broth if the tomatoes alone don’t provide enough liquid to create a stew. Stir, increase the heat, and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
4. Turn off the heat, stir in the lime juice, and season with freshly ground pepper. Let the posole sit for about 10 minutes prior to serving, to cool slightly and allow the flavors to meld.  Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Edamame Corn Tomato Salad / Succotash

Hey, it's a perfect end-of-summer salad, just like this green bean guacamole salad, these experimental fruit salads with basil and tomato, and this tofu caprese saladThis salad uses late summer bounty in the form of tomatoes, basil, and corn.  I guess by subbing edamame for lima beans, its really a kind of a riff on succotash, in salad form.

In adapting this recipe, I more or less halved it.  However, it seemed a bit bland, so then I increased some of the seasonings.  It definitely needed a lot of salt and pepper before it felt like a coherent salad.  But eventually, after it was seasoned and had sat in the fridge for a few hours, it was delicious.  In retrospect, I should have cut the tomatoes smaller, or tried harder to find the cherry tomatoes that the original recipe called for.

Edamame Corn Tomato Salad
(from sometimesiveg)

1/4 red onion, diced
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c edamame
1 c corn kernels
1/2-1 c tomatoes, cut into wedges (smaller pieces would have been better)
1-2 TB fresh basil, chopped
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2-1 tsp lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a skillet heat olive oil. Saute onion until it begins to brown. Add garlic, cook for about a minute.
2. Add edamame and corn, cook for about 5 minutes.
3. Remove from heat, add tomatoes and basil. Stir well.
4. Add salt balsamic vinegar, lime juice, and salt and pepper.  Chill before serving.  Serves 4.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Fast things with tofu

I've gone through a cooking slump the last few weeks: It's been disgustingly hot, and I'm very busy getting ready for the new school year to start and for exams.  I have finally started cooking again, but first, here are a few really fast things I've thrown together in lieu of trying new legitimate recipes.

From the game of "which leftovers go together?"  Fried tofu with Panang Curry Paste, cilantro, and avocado, with brown rice.


Superfast, kindofpadthai: sauteed tofu; then added garlic, ginger, and carrots; then added cabbage and tamari; then added cooked rice noodles and a mixture of peanut butter, garlic-chili paste, and water.  Topped with cilantro.


In other news, my mom has mailed me all the books I had left at her house and never took with me to LA.  It's quite the selection of reading material!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Umami and Potatoes

This dinner was inspired by the tupperware full of mushroom gravy I found in my freezer, and the fact that a short-lived interest in making martinis at home (seriously, how can it be so tricky?) had landed me with a bottle of vermouth.  The result?  A savory, meat-and-potatoes kind of feast that even this girl's husband (what?!) would probably like.

I cook this kind of food so rarely, it's always a bit like diving into some unfamiliar ethnic cuisine.  "Umm...Thyme?  Sage?  I think that's right... what the fuck is marjoram?"  I've realized I'm some sort of acidity monster, and this meal felt almost cloyingly savory-meaty, redeemed by some lemon juice in the greens and the mushrooms as well as the vermouth.  I wonder what it is that determines these preferences.  Is it genetic?  Something that's happened biologically as a result of earlier dietary/lifestyle choices?  Or is it more aesthetic?  But then, how many factors contribute to one's aesthetic values?  Perhaps my investment in balance, brightness, dryness, and bitterness even have something to do with my personality, or my image of my self?  All I know is, give me the hoppiest IPA you've got, or a gin-and-soda with lime; I'd rather be sober than drink a hefeweizen or a chardonnay.

Overall, though, this was a delicious, easy feast, especially since the gravy was already made.  It tastes like Thanksgiving.
Breaded Tempeh with Sauteed Mushrooms, Roasted New Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy, and Sauteed Collards

The tempeh-mushroom combo was somewhat inspired by the tofu piccata I made last spring.  Going off this recipe for breaded tempeh, I steamed the tempeh 10 minutes, then dipped it in soymilk and panko breadcrumbs (successively) and broiled it a few minutes on each side.  For the mushrooms, I sauteed 1/2 chopped onion in olive oil, then added 3 cloves minced garlic, then 8 oz sliced mushrooms, then a pinch each sage, thyme, and black pepper; I deglazed the pot with a lot of vermouth, then let it simmer; added a little stock, and simmered until mushrooms were tender and most of the liquid was gone; then finished with a squeeze of lemon juice.

The collards were sauteed in olive oil with onion and garlic; then I added stock (instead of tamari--for that crazy "European" flavor) and finally lemon juice.

Finally, the potatoes, which were topped with mushroom gravy, were washed and cut into wedges, then boiled 5-10 min in salted water (until slightly pokeable with a fork); tossed with olive oil, rosemary, salt, and black pepper; and broiled several minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy.  I pre-boiled the potatoes so as to have the oven on for as short a time as possible in the heat!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Creamy Carrot Soup with Coconut, Cardamom, and Cashews

I used to think cold soups were gross, but looking over the posts of the past month, I must have come around in a big way.  I made this tongue-twister of a soup to go with that Grilled Eggplant and Mango Noodle Salad.  Richly creamy (coconut milk AND cashews!), yet not overly heavy, and brightened up slightly by ginger, this dish was a great complement to the much more acidic noodle salad.

Pureed soups are creamy anyway, like this carrot ginger soup I made last year.  Adding both coconut milk and cashews seemed extravagant, but it's really not too much of either, especially considering how large of a batch this recipe makes.  Simple and delicious, I will definitely be making this soup again (misplaced modifiers be damned).

As we were sitting down to eat this soup, I realized how pretty it would look garnished with additional coconut milk!  But alas, none remained.

Creamy Carrot Soup with Coconut, Cardamom, and Cashews
(from vegalicious)

2 TB olive oil
1 onion, diced
10 carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 TB fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp cayenne
4 c of vegetable stock
1 c coconut milk
1 c cashews
salt and pepper

1. In a medium to large sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add the onion and carrots.  Cook about 10 minutes.
2. Add garlic, ginger, cardamom, and cayenne.  Cook a few minutes more.
3. Add stock and cashews, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, or until the carrots are very soft.
4. Turn off heat and allow soup to cool, then puree, adding coconut milk, until very smooth.
5. Season to taste with salt and more cayenne, keeping in mind that the stock already had salt in it.  Serve hot or chilled, garnished with additional coconut milk, minced scallions, a few cashews, etc.  Serves 4-6.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Grilled Eggplant and Mango Noodle Salad with a Sweet Chili Dressing

It looks as though the heatwave here has finally passed.  Last weekend it was over 100 in my part of town, when it's barely topped 85 all summer.   The desire to cook and to eat both take a hit when it's so hot, but this salad from taste space looked so interesting, refreshing, delicious, and just pretty, I knew I had to try it.  But my neighborhood supermarket, although it has phenomenal produce, bulk goods, and strange imported pickled things, is not the best place to buy tofu.  Nor have they had asparagus for months.  By substituting chickpeas for tofu (inspired by yet another asparagus-fruit recipe), green beans for asparagus, and regular noodles for spiralized zucchini, we were able to make this awesome salad without making a more involved grocery run.

I chose to make this noodle salad and a chilled carrot soup because they were cold and refreshing.  I didn't think about how much heat I'd have to use to create said refreshingness!  Although in the original version Janet grilled the veggies outside, I don't have that option, and roasting in the oven really heated up my apartment.

The finished product, though, was delicious: chewy, salty eggplant and green beans; buttery tangy mango; crisp onions; aromatic basil and cilantro; and zingy vinegar and chili.  The overall product was ever so slightly too vinegary for my tastes, but I also didn't use quite enough noodles.  Anyway, I will definitely make a salad like this again--it would be easy to improvise some fun variations.

Grilled Eggplant and Mango Noodle Salad with a Sweet Chili Dressing
(adapted from taste space)

1/6-1/4 c rice vinegar
1 TB agave or honey (omitted, partly because I had pre-seasoned rice vinegar)
1/4 tsp salt (omitted, partly because I had pre-seasoned rice vinegar)
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
zest and juice from 1 lime
1 1/2 c chickpeas
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB toasted sesame oil
3/4 lb Asian eggplant (around 2), sliced lengthwise into 1.5-cm strips
3/4 lb green beans, trimmed
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced or diced, soaked in water for at least 10 minutes, then drained
1 large or 2 small mangoes, cubed
large bunch basil, chopped
small bunch cilantro, chopped
8 oz soba noodles, cooked

1. Combine the rice vinegar, agave, salt, garlic, chili flakes, toasted sesame oil, lime zest and juice. Stir and set aside.
2. Marinate your chickpeas with the soy sauce and toasted sesame oil for 5 minutes or so.
3. If you had big eggplants, definitely salt your eggplant for 30 minutes or so. The smaller Asian ones don’t need it. If salting, after salting, rinse off the salt and drain off excess water. Drizzle with a bit of oil and spread out on an oiled baking sheet.  Toss the green beans with a bit of oil, salt and pepper and spread them out on a second baking sheet.
4. Roast both the eggplant and the green beans in the oven at 375.  For me the eggplant took longer: about 30 minutes, flipping midway, and broiling at the very end.  Remove the eggplant when soft and slightly golden; remove the beans when bright green and starting to blister.  Chop the eggplant into chunks when slightly cooled.
5. To assemble the salad, toss together the noodles, chickpeas, grilled eggplant and green beans, onion, mango, basil, cilantro and the dressing.  Serves 4-6.

Moong Dal Parathas

It's bread and dal all in one.

You make them separately and then you bind up the beans in a little dough pouch.

And then you roll it out (messy!) and cook it.  This is a good way to round out a vegetable dish, like my favorite baingan bharta, which doesn't have much protein on its own.

Moong Dal Paratha

1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 c mung beans, rinsed (and soaked?)
1/2 tsp red cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
juice of 1/2 lime or lemon, to taste
salt to taste
a few sprigs of fresh cilantro chopped
1 c whole wheat flour
oil for cooking

1. In a non-stick pan, add 1/2 tsp oil, add cumin seeds and onion. Then add the moong bean, sauté, add some water, cover with a lid and let it cook until soft. Keep an eye if the water drains to prevent burning of moong bean. Once cooked and water has evaporated, add the chili powder, coriander powder, lime juice, turmeric powder, salt, mix well and turn off the heat; let it cool. Then add cilantro.
2. Mix 1/4-1/2 tsp salt with flour and slowly add some water to it until it forms a dough to be able to roll. Cover it with a plastic wrap and let is sit aside for at least 20 mins. Take a small piece of dough and place it between your palms, make a round ball. With a rolling pin, roll the dough, sprinkle some wheat flour if necessary to prevent sticking. Roll to about 5 inches in diameter. Place a spoonful of moong bean in the center of the dough, pull the edges of the dough and cover the stuffing. Roll the dough further into a thin round shape about 10 inches in diameter.
3. Heat a pan, place the rolled paratha. After about 1 minute on medium flame, flip it. After about 2 mins, drizzle 1/2 tsp oil on top of the paratha then flip it again. Press it with a spatula all over to form a golden brown color. Flip it to cook on the other side and get golden brown. Take it off from heat and serve hot.  Makes about 16 parathas.