Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gluten Free Brownies with Walnuts

So, again, I've been meaning to get into more gluten-free baking, but some commonly-used ingredients are expensive and/or hard to find.  I was surprised to see at my local Jon's recently these particular nondescript shakers (I've gotten everything from za'atar to flaxseeds in these shakers).

 Now, I know that serious gluten-free baking would need to use more reassuringly gluten-free ingredients (like Bob's Red Mill or something).  But let's be honest, the ghost of glutinous baking projects past is probably haunting every corner of my kitchen; it'll never be totally pure.

I'd also like to point out the prices of these items, AND the fact that I also purchased "Awesome Bleach" that day.

Anyway, weeks passed and nothing happened to my weird little cannisters.  I also had a pound of dates still sitting in my fridge from when I made the crust for the frozen raspberry cashew cake last month.  And then a recipe comes along that calls for exactly what you have!  Well, except for the cherries in Chocolate Chip Cherry Brownies.

In replacing the 1 cup of cherries, I thought about maintaining the same approximate amount of sweetness, pectin, and just plain bulk.  I ended up using 1/4 c additional dates and 3/4 c walnuts.  Sadly, I didn't have quite enough chocolate chips, so I ended up just melting the entire 1 3/4 c that I had, rather than melting 1 1/2 c and folding in an additional 3/4 c later.  I also used soymilk instead of almond milk, and I chopped and soaked the dates in the milk before processing to give them a head start.

I love the idea of using a date-and-milk puree as a base!  The pectin in the dates makes the liquid so thick.

The batter tasted pretty great; it was incredibly sticky and fudgy.

And indeed, the finished product, straight out of the oven, was also fudgy and delicious.  The next day, though, the texture was a little bit dry and mealy.  I'm going to try reheating them, but I think these are best eaten right after baking--which has nothing to do with their lack of gluten--what brownie doesn't taste best when it's still warm from the oven?

Gluten Free Brownies with Walnuts
(adapted from manifest vegan)

about 16 dates
1/2 c nondairy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 c non-dairy chocolate chips, divided
1 c superfine brown rice flour
1/3 c potato starch
1 tsp salt
3/4 c walnuts, toasted

1. Soak the dates, coarsely chopped, in the nondairy milk.  Preheat oven to 350*.  Oil a an 8 x 8 inch baking pan.
2. Combine pitted dates and non-dairy milk, and vanilla into food processor and puree until very smooth.
3. Over double boiler, melt 1 1/2 c chocolate chips. Pour the melted chocolate into the date mixture and blend again until super smooth. 
4. In large mixing bowl combine  brown rice flour and potato starch and salt
and mix until well combined. Fold in remaining chocolate chips and toasted walnuts.
5. Transfer to pan.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, then allow to cool before cutting into squares and serving.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Channa Masala (again!)

This version of chan(n)a masala comes from Renae at ieatfood.  I tried it because it's rather different than either of the versions I make: this one I've posted, or the longer version in The Asian Vegan Kitchen from which it's adapted.  This recipe, unlike the others, uses mustard seed, fenugreek seed, and amchoor, all of which give it a more pungent flavor profile.  While I think I prefer the spicy and toasty flavors of the other versions, it's fun to see how changing a few spices makes such a huge difference.

In making Renae's recipe, I used all canned tomatoes instead of a mixture of tomatoes and tomato paste and fresh ginger instead of dried.  I omitted paprika and asafoetida, and I switched around the order of some of the ingredients.

Channa Masala
(from i eat food)

3/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 TB chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp (or to taste) cayenne pepper
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
1 TB amchoor (dried mango powder; can substitute lemon juice, which you would add at the end of the cooking time)
1 tsp (or to taste) salt
4 c cooked chickpeas
1/2 c frozen peas, optional (I like to have at least a bit of green in everything I make)

1. Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add mustard seeds and cover until they begin to splutter.  Don't let them burn!
2. Add fenugreek, cumin, and onion, and saute 5-10 minutes, until onion is slightly browned.
3. Add garlic and ginger and cook several minutes longer.
4. Add remaining ingredients except chickpeas and, um, pea peas.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or so. 
5. Add chickpeas and simmer 30 minutes or so, adding water if the sauce gets too dry.
6. Add peas just before serving.  Serves about 8.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Beet Coconut Soup

Beets are like the perfect vegetable from outer space, and mixing them with coconut milk only further brightened up their crazy color.

Devon and I made this soup going off a recipe from the ppk, but we used regular ol' beets (not golden ones), omitted the sweetener, added a TON of lime juice, and made a half batch.  Warm or chilled, it's pretty nice.  

Beet-Coconut-Ginger Soup
(from the ppk)

2 lbs beets (about 6-8 beets?), trimmed and scrubbed
1 15 oz can lite coconut milk
3 TB fresh lime juice (more to taste)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 TB fresh minced ginger
1 1/2 to 2 c vegetable broth
thinly sliced scallions and/or chopped cilantro--you could probably pull off mint, too

1. The hardest part of this recipe is roasting the beets, and that’s not even hard, it just takes a while. Look for beets that are somewhere between the size of a golfball and a tennis ball, so that they roast quickly and evenly.
2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Wrap the scrubbed beets individually in tin foil. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about an hour, turning once about halfway through. Beets are ready when very easily pierced with a steak knife.
3. Let them cool (still in the tinfoil) for about an hour.  They’ll keep softening as they cool, and that is good! Place in the fridge to cool completely.
4. Once cool, unwrap the beets, slide off the peel, and place in a blender or food processor. Add the coconut milk, lime juice and salt and puree until relatively smooth.
5. Preheat a small pan over medium-low heat, and saute the ginger and garlic for no more than a minute, being careful not to burn. Add 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth to deglaze the pan, and turn off the heat.
6. Transfer the garlic/ginger/veg broth mixture to the food processor, and puree until very smooth and velvetty. Taste for salt and seasonings, and add a tiny bit of agave or maple syrup if you’d like it a tad sweeter.
7. Place in the fridge (while still in the blender) and chill for at least an hour. It should be cold all the way through. If it’s too thick, add up to another 1/2 cup vegetable broth and blend again.
8. Serve topped with scallions and/or cilantroServes 8.


I also recently tried to make this peach jam I saw on akshayapaatram.  Crystallized ginger?!  Lemon zest?!  Why, yes!  But the nectarines I tried to use just weren't up to the task; no amount of sugar or spices was going to fix them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zucchini Baba Ganoush

Inspired by Hannah's recipe at Bittersweet, this version of baba ganoush uses summer squash instead of eggplant, and it's amazing how much like the original it tastes!  For me, it's the smoked flavor that really gives baba ganoush its character, but since the skin on squash is so different than on an eggplant, I wasn't sure you could set it on fire and then just peel the skin off.  Using 1/8 tsp of liquid smoke, however, worked perfectly (but use too much, and things just taste weird).  For ultimate smokiness, I also toasted the cumin I used whole before grinding it and adding it to the mix.  I also used more cumin and more lemon juice than Hannah--basically, I did whatever I'd do to make the eggplant version (and I've just realized that I have never actually posted a basic recipe with amounts on this blog; this one with mint leaves everything to taste).  Finally, I skipped the salt and pepper (besides a little salt in the roasting process), relying instead on harissa for all kinds of flavor (like in this hummus).

I also made a few little changes in method:  Instead of zucchini I used those cute little Mexican squashes, which are about half the price of zucchini in my neighborhood.  I peeled the garlic before roasting it, and have since realized that peeling the squash as well would have resulted in a more even and more eggplant-like appearance.  I didn't bother to line the pan with foil, and I had to turn on the broiler at the end to get the veggies that beautiful golden color.

In the end, this was a super-creamy, interesting, and delicious spread.  Since I have some reservations about eggplants--and since these little squashes are SO cheap right now--I'll definitely be making this again.

Zucchini Baba Ganoush
(adapted from bittersweet)
1 1/2 pounds zucchini or other summer squash (2 large, 3 medium, 4 small?), peeled if you want
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 TB olive oil
pinch salt
3 TB tahini
juice of 1 large lemon
1/4-1/2 tsp whole cumin, toasted and ground
1/8 tsp liquid smoke
large dollop harissa (or black pepper, or cayenne), to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400* and oil a large baking sheet.  Slice the zucchini into 1/4-in thick slices and toss them in oil with a pinch of salt.  Spread them out on the baking sheet, and place the whole cloves of garlic grouped in the center of the sheet so that they don’t burn. Roast for 30 minutes (flipping once), then broil a few minutes, until the zucchini are nicely browned. Let cool.
2. Once the vegetables have come to room temperature, puree the roasted zucchini and the garlic in a blender or food processor. Add in the tahini, lemon juice, cumin, and liquid smoke.  Adjust seasonings to taste, then serve, garnished with a big dollop of harissa.  It will be better if it sits in the fridge for at least a few hours first.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Summer Sweet Corn Soup w/Basil Oil

There's something comforting about the fact that even in Southern California in 2011, when you can really get anything at any time of the year, the end of summer inevitably brings with it a slew of seasonal tastes and recipes.  It's all the more comforting given that they're the same here as they are in the Midwest where I grew up.  August comes, and suddenly tomatoes, basil, squash, sweet corn, and beets are everywhere.  These simple foods taste of weeks and weeks of sunlight and humidity; they come at the most fertile moment of the year... and yet for that very same reason, they're always tinged with a bittersweet belatedness.  This was especially true last August; behind all those tomato squash basil dishes is the fact that two of the most important people in my LA life were moving to the Bay Area and my little brother was moving to Egypt.

August is not the cruellest month, but it is a strange month.

This soup, which takes advantage of fresh sweet corn and basil, can be served hot or cold, depending on what form August is taking where you are.  It paired nicely with the 11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Dates and some salad greens (at left).  I reduced the amount of carrot and increased that of corn; I also fully pureed the soup to make it prettier.  I did, for the first time in my life, feel that there was too much thyme--start low, and remember you can always add more to taste later.  I was going to call this post "Too much thyme on my hands," but I couldn't figure out how to make it work with the fall/belatedness stuff.

The basil oil recipe that follows is great!  I used it not only on this soup, but also as a salad dressing and on this week's ravioli.  I think it would also be pretty incredible on some really fresh tomatoes.

Summer Sweet Corn Soup w/Basil Oil Drizzle

4 sweet corn ears, husked
2 TB olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
1 c yellow onions, finely diced
3 c vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
fresh thyme leaves (if substituting dried thyme, don't overdo it!--maybe 1/2 tsp?)
salt and pepper
1 recipe fresh basil oil (below)

1. Cut the corn from the cobs and discard the cobs. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the corn, garlic, celery, carrots, and onions and cook until slightly caramelized, 4-5 minutes.
2. Add the broth, bay leaves, and thyme. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
3. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Using an immersion blender, puree 2/3 of the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Serve hot or cold with a drizzle of basil oil.  Serves about 6.


Basil Oil Drizzle

1/3 c olive oil
3 TB fresh basil, chopped

In a small saucepan add the ingredients and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.  Strain basil and drizzle 1-2 teaspoons of oil over each bowl of soup.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ravioli Adventure

As I was in the middle of this, I texted a friend, "Fuck this shit.  I'm calling Chef Boyardee."  But then... the feeling of accomplishment and the deliciousness that followed were actually pretty great.

And anyway, this is a dish of components.  You can make the filling and the sauce well in advance; hell. you can even freeze and thaw them multiple times, as I did with this ground cauliflower-walnut meat.  The timing actually worked out really well: first, I made the filling; then, while the filling was cooling, I made the pasta dough; while the dough was sitting, I started the sauce; while the sauce was simmering, I started rolling out the pasta, then cutting it into shapes and making the raviolis; while one bunch of raviolis were simmering on the stove, I was putting together the next bunch.

So the sauce was pretty basic: olive oil, onion, garlic, salt, canned tomatoes with chilies, basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, cayenne, sugar.  What follows is 1) the filling and 2) the pasta dough/method.

For the filling, I started with the savory ground cauliflower-walnut slop that I posted about months ago.  This turned out amazing inside of the ravioli, because the walnuts maintained their crunch, giving the filling more texture than most versions (vegan or otherwise) would.  However, I think you could easily also do this with plain ol' TVP or crumbled tempeh.  In any case, it's not pretty, but a) it's going inside of a ravioli, so who cares? and b) ground beef is a whole lot nastier.
Meaty Ravioli Filling

olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1.5 c something meaty (I used savory ground cauliflower-walnut slop but you could also use plain TVP or crumbled tempeh)
1/2 c red wine
2 TB tomato paste
allspice, to taste
oregano, to taste
cayenne, to taste
nutritional yeast, to taste
salt, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, heat olive oil.  Saute onions 5-10 min, then add garlic and a pinch of salt.  Saute a few more minutes, then add "meat."  Saute a few more minutes until browned.
2. Deglaze pan with the wine.  Then also add tomato paste and remaining ingredients.  Reduce heat and cook 5-10 more minutes--at least long enough for the alcohol smell to subside.


And now for the pasta!  I had to look around a bit for a recipe that used neither eggs nor semolina flour, but what I found worked like a dream (though I had to add a LOT more flour to balance out the water that the recipe called for).  Moreover, the chickpea flour in it adds fiber and protein.  I'm not exactly sure what the chickpea flour does for the consistency of the pasta, but this recipe seemed just right, despite the fact that I'd read that skipping the semolina flour would make your pasta mushier.

I've mapped out the timing for this process up above; the main thing is to give yourself more time than you think you need.

Homemade Ravioli
(adapted from vegan-food.net)

1 2/3 c unbleached white flour (plus a lot more for kneading/flouring)
1/2 c chickpea flour
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c water
1 batch ravioli filling (see above)

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, chickpea flour, and salt.  Mix with a fork, then drizzle in water and mix well. 
2. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead 5-10 minutes until dough is firm and dry.  Place dough in a sealed ziploc bag for 10 minutes.
3. Open bag and cut dough into 8 separate pieces.  Leave the pieces you aren't using in the bag.
4. Roll out each piece on floured surface until quite thin.  Leave on a drying rack or hanging on a chair back to dry out for 5-10 min.
5. Start boiling a shallow pot of slightly salted water.
6. Return to each rolled out piece and, using a floured cookie cutter, cut the dough into pieces.  Then, scoop a heaping teaspoon onto every other piece (adjust this depending on the size of your cutout).
7. Slightly wet the edges of every other piece of dough, then assemble the ravioli, sealing the edges with the tines of a fork.
8. Put the completed ravioli into the boiling water (make sure it isn't boiling so hard that the ravioli are going to fall apart), only a few at a time.  Cook for 3-4 minutes and then remove.  Serve hot with sauce, or refridgerate or freeze for later.  Makes about 30 3x3-in raviolis.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Dates

When Janet described this as "The Best Lentil Salad, Ever. For Sure. Make. This. Now.", I sort of had to take her seriously.  And the lineup of flavors sounded really cool: 

This recipe not only uses a combo of cumin/coriander/turmeric with cardamom/cinnamon/cloves/nutmeg; it does a similar curve ball with the pairing of dried fruit (I used dates) and capers/vinegar.  It's basically a party in your mouth.

I didn't change much, but I did use plain ol' brown lentils instead of du Puy--they don't retain their form quite as well as those fancy French ones, but as long as you are careful to watch for overcooking, they worked just fine.  I also skipped the Aleppo pepper and used cayenne.

11-Spice Lentil Salad with Capers and Dates

2.25 c (1 lb) French du Puy or brown lentils
1 medium red onion, finely diced and soaked in water for at least 5 minutes
1 c dried currants (or other dried fruit--I used chopped dates)
1/3 c capers, chopped if large
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c apple cider vinegar
1 TB maple syrup
1 TB strong mustard
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp cayenne (or less)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Rinse lentils well and drain. Place in a pot and cover with a 3-4 inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer. Check lentils for doneness after 15 minutes, but they should take about 20-25 minutes in total. You will know they are cooked if they still retain a slight tooth – al dente! Overcooking the lentils is the death of this dish. Be careful!
2. While the lentils are simmering, make the dressing by placing all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake vigorously to combine.
3. Finely dice red onion – the salad is best if all the ingredients are about the same size. If using raisins, chop them roughly to make them a bit smaller, and do the same with the capers if they are large.
4. When the lentils are cooked, remove from heat, drain and place under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled slightly but still a little warm, place lentils in a large serving bowl and toss with dressing. Add drained onion, capers, and currants. Chill until serving, marinading at least overnight for the flavours to meld.
Serves 8.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Dukkah

You know how when you get a new computer, even if it's nicer, it just feels awkward and wrong?  The operating system, the keyboard, everything.

["You use a PC?  But you're a vegan!" -- one of my professors...]

Anyway, that's how I'm feeling about my new laptop and the photo editing software on it, and also about the digital camera I got earlier this year.  Growing pains.  #firstworldproblems.

And I think about how someone who didn't use her computer as often as I did probably wouldn't have such of an adjustment to make.  Similarly, the more comfortable you are in your own kitchen, the more that cooking in someone else's kitchen feels so hard--even if they DO have cool new ingredients and gadgets and counter space. 

Anyway, this dish and the tofu caprese salad came out of me bringing whatever in my fridge was going to go bad to a housesitting gig, plus what they had sitting around.  I also made some collards with harissa (YUM--sort of like this kale recipe) for the same reasons.

Despite my awareness of this tendency, I continue to overlook cauliflower.  But when I saw this recipe on taste space, I got excited about finally using up my dukkah, as well as the cauliflower that was left over from making rasa kayi.


Janet's dukkah recipe includes coconut, and I really wanted to include that, but I didn't have any on hand.  I also added the dukkah at the beginning rather than the end, with no adverse results.  Finally, at the end the dish really needed a squirt of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil to keep it from being a lil mealy.  When all was said and done, it was really lovely--starchy/hearty but interesting in terms of taste and texture.

Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpeas with Dukkah
(from taste space)

2 lb cauliflower, cut into bite size pieces (1 large head)
2 c cooked chickpeas (or a 19-oz can of chickpeas, rinsed well and drained)
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1/2-1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
4 TB dukkah, or the following:
(since the dukkah recipe I use doesn't include coconut, I would add that!)
* 1.5 TB blanched almonds, toasted and finely chopped
* 2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
* 1/2 TB cumin seeds, toasted and ground
* 1/2 TB sesame seeds, toasted and ground
* 1 TB unsweetened dried shredded coconut, toasted and ground
pinch salt
pinch freshly ground black pepper
lemon juice
additional olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. If making your dukkah, now, separately toast the almonds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, sesame seeds and coconut. Grind each individually, then combine all together with a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Combine cauliflower florets (include all the little bits!) and chickpeas. Toss with olive oil and salt, to taste. Lay in a single layer on two baking trays lined with a silpat.
4. Roast for 20-40 minutes until top edges are golden brown. Check at 20 minutes, if it isn’t done, toss to have them evenly roast. Once out of the oven, top with dukkah. Serve immediately.  Serves 4.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Caprese Salad

Hearkening back to the time of the experimental fruit salads of last summer... I was like, I have tomatoes.  I have basil.  Let's make this work.

Fried tofu stands in here for the traditional caprese's mozzarella.  It's then jazzed up with lemon juice, scallions, red sea salt (a special house-sitting find!), and one last drizzle of olive oil.

Tofu Caprese Salad
tofu, pressed and cut into little pieces
tomatoes (cherry or otherwise), cut into bite-sized pieces
salt (I used this red sea salt)
lemon juice
olive oil
basil, chiffonade cut
scallions, minced

1. Fry tofu pieces until golden brown. Set aside.
2. Combine tofu with remaining ingredients.  Adjust to taste, and place in fridge, allowing flavors to mix before serving.

Crispy Tempeh

I picked up some panko breadcrumbs at TJ's and had to play with them.

Breadcrumbs are magic. 

Crispy Tempeh

1 8-ounce pkg. of tempeh, cut into cubes
4 c water
1/4 c soy sauce
1/2 c unsweetened nondairy milk
1/2 c whole wheat flour (didn't need this much)
1/2 c plain unseasoned breadcrumbs (used panko)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder

1. Simmer tempeh in tamari-seasoned water for about 20 min.  Remove and let cool.
2. Preheat oven to 425*.  Oil a baking dish.
3. Fill one bowl/plate with almond milk, one with the flour mixed with onion powder, chili powder, and garlic powder, and one with breadcrumbs.  Dip in milk, flour, milk again, and breadcrumbs.  Bake the tempeh for 18-20 minutes until crispy on the outside.  Serves about 2-3.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Buckaroo Beans and Homemade Polenta

The word "buckaroo," according to wikipedia, most likely derives from the Spanish word "vaquero" and essentially means "cowboy."  Would a cowboy eat these beans?  I'm not sure.  On the one hand, there's a nice element of tex-mex-ish fusion, what with the chipotles and cocoa.  On the other hand, this is a lil too complicated to make, like out of a can out on the range or whatever.

This recipe employs dry mustard, chipotles, coffee, and chocolate!! which results in an awesome tangy, smoky, velvety, and earthy dish.

I had this recipe two ways, both of which I'd recommend: first, with fried collards and brown rice (typical macro-southern fusion); and secondly, with homemade polenta: although trader joe's polenta is cheap, easy, and tasty, I thought I'd try my hand at doing it from scratch, since I didn't have any other polenta options.  I simmered 1/2 c cornmeal in several c of water until all the water was absorbed (which happened really fast), then I put it into little cups (see photo at right) and refrigerated them a few hours.  Then, slice and fry!

So about this recipe.  I used 1 c dry black beans; I couldn't decide how much this was (the original recipe called for one pound), so I started off making a "half" but then lapsed into whole.  This meant that the dish ended up really saucy rather than beany, but still good.  Indeed, according to some random site I google, 1 lb dry beans is actually 2.2 c.  Maybe I should get a kitchen scale.

I also omitted the bell pepper, bacon bits (ew), and extra liquid.  I mistakenly used whole chipotles en adobo instead of cutting them up (whoops).  And finally, I used cocoa powder rather than chocolate--this, I think, was just fine and also healthier.

Buckaroo Beans
(adapted from frontier coop, via Janet's suggestions on my post about chili powder)

1-2 c dry beans, soaked (I used 1 c dry black beans)
2 bay leaves
1/2-1 large onion, chopped
1  large green pepper, seeds and membrane removed, chopped (I skipped this)
2-3 canned chipotle peppers en adobo, diced, with their sauce
2-4 TB cocoa powder
1/2-1 c canned crushed tomatoes (I used 1/4 c tomato paste w/some water)
1 c very strong coffee
3 TB brown sugar
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dry mustard

1. Drain the beans well, rinse, and place in a large pot with fresh water to cover. Add the bay leaves and place over high heat. Bring to boil; lower heat and simmer until tender, about 40 minutes for anasazi, 1 1/2 hours for pintos. Remove from heat. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
3. Spray a bean pot or other deep, nonreactive casserole with cooking spray. Scatter the onion and green pepper over the bottom, then add the drained beans.
4. Whisk the chipotles and adobe sauce, unsweetened chocolate, crushed tomatoes, coffee, brown sugar, chili powder, oregano (crush the leaves between your fingers as you add it, to release the essential oils), salt, ground cumin, and dry mustard into the reserved bean cooking liquid. When well combined, pour over the beans. The liquid should just cover the beans; if it doesn't, add just enough boiling water, coffee, or vegetable stock to achieve this. Cover and bake for 6 hours, checking every once in a while to make sure the liquid level is maintained.
5. After the beans have baked for 6 hours, uncover. Stir to distribute the onion and green pepper throughout the beans. Return to oven and bake for 50 minutes more. If using, stir in bacon bits and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot, with cornbread or tortillas, and pass any desired accompaniments at the table.  Serves 4-6.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rasa Kayi

Besides the eggplant-based Rasa Vangi, the other amazing dish I had at Rasa last month in London was Rasa Kayi, which apparently comes from Karnataka, to the north of Kerala (I think most of the dishes at the restaurant were from Kerala).  I looked around online for a recipe that included cinnamon and cardamom, because they were what really gave the dish its particular flavor, especially paired with the coconut milk.  Yum--I love the possibility of using coconut milk rather than yogurt in a curry.

Unlike the eggplant recipe, this recipe was very specific about amounts and cooking times, and it worked out great: the veggies were all cooked to perfection, tender but not mushy.  And the flavors are an extravaganza: the warmth of coconut milk, cinnamon, cardamom, and fennel are balanced out by the brighter flavors of tomato and ginger.  Definitely a keeper.

Rasa Kayi (Karnataka Curry)
(from chef2chef)

3 tomatoes
1 whole green chile, seeded and finely chopped
1 piece fresh ginger (1-inch), chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
3 TB vegetable oil
2 whole green chiles; trimmed, halved lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick
contents of 2 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
pinch salt
3 medium onions; finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chile powder (I omitted this because I was worried about it being too spicy for my guest; you can always add it to taste later)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 lg carrot; cut into 2in batons
1 sm potato; cut into 2in batons
2 oz cauliflower florets; small
2 oz fine green beans; trimmed
1/3 c  coconut milk; more or less
salt and pepper

1. Put the tomatoes, chopped chile, ginger and fennel seeds into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
2. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the halved chiles, cinnamon, cardamom and bay leaves for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onions and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and caramelized. Stir in the turmeric, chile powder and coriander and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the carrot, potato and 5 tablespoons water, cover and cook over a low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the cauliflower florets, green beans and tomato mixture. Cover and cook over a low heat for a further 10 minutes until all the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened.
4. Stir in the coconut milk and cook over a low heat for 1-2 minutes to heat through. Serve immediately.  Serves 4.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Rasa Vangi

It always gets me when people talk about "curry" as if it were a dish, a spice, or a food group.  Insofar as it is anything--stretching from Japan to Thailand to Pakistan to India--curry is a method of cooking, which may involve frying spices in oil or ghee before turning them into a sauce.  To talk about "curry" as if it meant "Indian food" is like talking about French food by using the word "bake."  "Oh, we went out to this darling little ethnic restaurant last night and we had some bake."  Never mind that even French food differs depending on the part of the country you're in; never mind that "bake" could refer to many different dishes; never mind that "bake" excludes a large part of the cuisine of the country with which it's being somewhat awkwardly associated.   And, never mind that the word also suggests the cuisine of one nation, when in reality many nations make those type of dishes.  Anyway.

Did you know that in Britain all the Asians who aren't "South Asian" (i.e., Pakistani, Indian, Sri Lankan, or Bangladeshi) have to check "Chinese or other" on their census forms?  It's nice to know that Americans aren't the only ones whose census has some issues.

So on to the really awesome stuff.

This was the second-most-life-changing curry we had at Rasa.  I think it ended up better than the version we had at the restaurant, but I'm not sure why.  I found this recipe online, and I kindof loved how it didn't have ANY measurements!  Let's just think about the hegemony of the measurement.  Sometimes I make up measurements to make my recipes sound legit.  But I felt liberated and delighted by a recipe that was like, "add some of this; then add some of this."  And you know what?  It turned out really awesome.

Then again, I recorded my own measurements for you.  So the measurement rears its head again.

I find it interesting how similar, and yet how different, this recipe is to the baingan bharta that I adore.  Here there be sesame seeds, coconut, tamarind, and mustard seeds!

It was so delicious.  The eggplant was tender, with the consistency of a poached pear, and the spices were exquisite.  Sarah said that it was "restaurant quality," which I'm gonna take as a compliment.

Rasa Vangi
(adapted from this blog)

3 small eggplants, sliced
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 red chile, dried
1 TB coconut
1 large onion, chopped
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1-2 green chillis
tamarind (the recipe calls for a "lemon sized" chunk of tamarind; I used 1 tsp of the concentrated paste)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
cayenne to taste
canola oil
1 tsp mustard seeds

1. Cut the eggplants in to quarters and fry them golden brown in oil.
2. Extract tamarind pulp and add two glasses of water to it and keep aside.
3. In the meanwhile grind all the ingredients for the masala to a fine powder (I toasted them first, individually, to bring out the flavors).
4. Now in a wok add some oil and fry mustard seeds.  Now add finely chopped onions and green chillis and saute well. Add chopped tomatoes to it and cook it well. Add coriander powder, chilli powder and salt and stir. Now add the tamarind water and the ground masala powder.
5. Now bring the mix to a boil and add the fried eggplants to it.
6. Let it cook till the gravy thickens.Add chopped cilantro leaves before closing the lid.   Serves about 4.

Monday, August 1, 2011

London Recap

Hi everyone!  I've been wandering through pretty much each charter'd street this past month, and what a seriously amazing month it has been! 

Still, I've been living in a little hotel room with a tiny kitchen, cooking things that require no chopping and few ingredients.  This was probably the best "home-cooked" meal:

spaghetti with "harissa" (about which more later), salt, oregano, and cayenne; lentils with salt, oregano, and cayenne; steamed greens with salt, cayenne, and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar

About that "harissa"... I feel like the label speaks for itself.

Not. remotely. spicy.  Three lil chilies?  Really???  Only in England.

The other lowpoint (just wait, I'm getting to the super high points!) is beer in England.  Most of it's not technically vegan (or even vegetarian); moreover, it's forced into this binary of lagers and ales.  The lagers are all pretty boring (Beck's, Stella, etc.), and the ales are mostly boring in their own way (flat, heavy, yeasty, bland).  I seriously craved something dry, fizzy, hoppy, and interesting--this doesn't appear to exist in the UK.  Among the, ahem, several beers I tasted while in England, I found two I really did like: Fuller's ESB and Hook Norton Haymaker.  Fuller's is fizzy but ale-y, like an American amber or pale ale.  The Hook Norton may have been an English ale--which means its pumped and not fizzy--but it was hoppier and fresher-tasting than most of the others I tried.

And yeah.  Most English beers are actually not even vegetarian.  Apparently Fuller's is and Hook Norton isn't.  Eek.  I pick my battles.  The idea that "vegan" is a clearly defined, easy-to-observe category is a delusion.

And now the really good stuff!

I had one of the best meals of my life at Rasa, a Keralian restaurant in Stoke Newington.  Recipes definitely forthcoming.  I went there twice.  On the first visit, we had 1) a nair dosa, stuffed not only with potatoes and spices but also with beets, carrots, and ginger; 2) rasa vangi, an eggplant curry; 3) a black-eyed pea curry (w/coconut!); 4) tomato rice (with coconut milk and cashews); and 5) some whole wheat chappatis.  But the real star of the meal was 6) rasa kayi.  Good gods.  It's "a mixed vegetable speciality from the Southern State of Karnataka. A spicy curry made of beans, carrots, cauliflower, potatoes and simmered in a sauce of garlic, ginger and fennel."  We also tasted cinnamon and cardamom in addition to the fennel... basically, it was perfect.  I WILL recreate this dish if it's the last thing I do.  :)

So I went back a second time, with other friends, and we had amazing kathrikka ("finely sliced pieces of aubergines are dipped in a special batter, blended with coriander and chilli, before frying. Served with a fresh tomato chutney"); spicy potatoes ("A combination of potatoes, peas and peppers stir fried with onions, cloves, black pepper and tomatoes"); coconut rice; parathas; and the glorious return of the nair dosa and rasa kayi.  What's really incredible?  We had all this food, plus three beers, and the bill was only 30 pounds!  I'm about ready to move to Stoke Newington.  It's a bit of a commute to UCLA, though.

While in England, my professor Saree also took me and my colleague Alex to two gastopubs in Clerkenwell that were fantastic: The Eagle and The Easton.  The Eagle had a velvety chickpea-eggplantstew on the menu; it had lots of cumin, with slightly sour and caramelly flavors, and a buttload of cilantro (I mean, "coriander leaf").  We also had some fantastic garlicky olives and bread with our meal.  At the Easton, there was nothing really vegan on the menu, but when I talked to the waitress, she had the kitchen make me an amazing entree salad with couscous and roasted garlic, tomatoes, and artichoke hearts.

Then for the runners-up round:

After a seriously epic walking tour of East London, we stopped at Tayyabs in Whitechapel for dinner.  It sort of reminded me of Jitlada in my neighborhood in LA--an amazing "ethnic" restaurant that has been discovered by white people and has consequently resulted in crowds, higher prices, and crappier service... but is still more or less worth it for the excellent food.  I ate: papadums and chutneys, pakoras, veggie samosas, dhall karela (lentils and pumpkin!), rice.  However, the place is really known for its grilled meat, and I think the people who ate that were more impressed than I was.

Finally, I really wanted a full English breakfast.  Thanks to quarrygirl, I heard about Inspiral Cafe in Camden Town.  And this is what I got:

tofu scramble (with dill!?); roasted mushrooms; beans (chickpeas, canellinis, kidney beans, tomatoes, grated carrots); tempeh bacon; housemade veg sausage; roasted tomatoes; toast

The roasted mushrooms were incredible, and generally the breakfast was really good.  Still, it mostly just made me miss my kitchen.  I also wasn't crazy about the dill in the scramble.

And here I am!  I have a huge backlog of stuff to make/post, but I also am newly resolved to focusing on schoolwork for the rest of the summer.  We'll see how this pans out.  In the meantime... this new brewpub/restaurant Mohawk Bend is opening tonight near me and I am SO EXCITED.

It might take leaving LA for a bit to really appreciate just how many amazing people and places there are here.  London used to be the city of my dreams--in 2007, I left everything in the US to move there without job, friends, or apartment--but I have never been happier than I am now, in Los Angeles, of all places.  Almost no one wants to admit to belonging in LA, but... I am so, so happy to be here.