Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I don't really have much of a taste for sweets anymore, but they seem to come along at this time of year. Maybe it's because apples and honey get harvested. Or because people used sugar in preserving foods for the long winter? Anyway, here is a really pretty jar of honey with sliced hazelnuts and pistachios. 


I made this cider to take to a screening of "Dawn of the Dead" at Hollywood Forever. It is strong and not to be gulped in huge quantities. It was also deliciously warming. I was surprised to find myself adding sugar to this drink, but since we started with hard cider, there actually wasn't much sugar to begin with. If you use regular nonalcoholic cider, then don't add any sugar.

Mulled Hard Cider

3 c (hard) cider
4 cloves
4 oz vodka (or whiskey or rum)
2 TB simple syrup
cinnamon sticks

Heat everything in a saucepan, being careful not to boil it. When it starts steaming, transfer to a preheated thermos, or serve it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quick Radish-Cucumber Salad with Sesame Oil

I got a mandoline slicer for my birthday! After I eventually got over my fear of cutting off fingers enough to take it out of the box, it became a source of great fun, creativity, and efficiency. I look forward to many happy french fries, fruit salads, etc.

I hate slicing radishes. Their small diameter makes them difficult to hold while cutting them with a knife. So halleluiah! The mandoline did an amazing job of slicing.

 So I threw together a quick pickle/salad with rice vinegar, salt, canola oil, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. Not very much of any of these, and a bit more vinegar than anything else. Then, because I'd also tried out the mandoline on making shoestring beets, I threw some of those in as well for color.

Delicious and pretty! This was a refreshing accompaniment to a spicy curry.

Quick Radish-Cucumber Salad with Sesame Oil

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Creamy Roasted Broccoli Soup

This soup, like this mushroom one, was invented out of a desire to make something a bit healthier than I'd been eating. Roasting brings out a whole new flavor in broccoli, and cumin, turmeric, lime, and cilantro also ensure that this isn't your ordinary cream of broccoli soup.

I actually tried this soup before adding in the pureed split peas to see which way I liked it better, and I'm torn. Adding just that 1/2 c split peas really changes the texture: it thickens it, but it can also make it feel a little chalky if you don't cook with enough oil. Overall, though, I liked it better with the split peas in, and that way it also makes it a complete fast meal. Adding them to the soup meant that it wasn't as spicy as it might have been... so you might want to add cayenne to taste or something at the end.

Creamy Roasted Broccoli Soup

1/2 c split peas
3-4 c water
2 crowns of broccoli--just the crowns (set the stems aside)
olive oil
olive oil
3 shallots, minced (or 1/2 onion)
2 tsp cumin 
4 cloves garlic
1/2 serrano chile, unseeded, minced
stems from the broccoli crowns, coarsely chopped
2 c veg stock
lime juice

1. Preheat oven to 450*.
2. Combine the split peas, water, turmeric, and salt, and boil until peas are very mushy (40 min or so).
3. Break the broccoli crowns into bite-sized pieces. Toss them with olive oil and spread out in a baking dish. Roast in the oven, turning occasionally, for 20-30 minutes, or until they just begin to get golden around the edges.
4. In a larger saucepan, heat some olive oil. Add shallots and cumin and saute a few minutes, being careful not to burn the shallots. Add garlic and chile and do the same. Finally, saute the chopped pieces of broccoli stem for a few minutes before adding the vegetable stock, bringing to a boil, then reducing heat, covering, and simmering until stems are soft (20 min?).
5. As each of these three parts finishes, remove from heat and allow to cool. When cooled, combine in a blender and puree until very smooth. Be sure everything is cooled sufficiently or you will have a blender explosion.
6. Return soup to pot and reheat. Serve hot with lime juice, mint, and cilantro. Serves about 4.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pumpkin Roundup

I just read on facebook about an insane pumpkin-themed dinner that my friends Simchi and Jared made, and I thought I'd make a little list for myself and you all of delicious pumpkin- and winter squash- based dishes. Never mind the fact that it was 93 degrees here in LA today.

Savory dishes
pumpkin chili
pumpkin coconut curry (pungent)
creamy pumpkin coconut curry (sweet)
pumpkin coconut split pea stew (nutty)
spicy eggplant squash lentil stew (dhansak)
kholamba (pungent)
asian squash-pear soup with adzuki beans
roasted squash salad with cilantro-sunflower dressing
miso-harissa squash and kale
roasted acorn squash with sumac and pistachios
squash hummus (sqummus)

Sweet dishes
my favorite pumpkin bread of all time
pumpkin pie with almond buttercream
ginger-pumpkin cupcakes with maple-vanilla buttercream
marbled chocolate-pumpkin cookies
pumpkin cookies (awesome)
pumpkin cookies (not great)

Spicy and Sour Eggplant with Tempeh and Green Beans

This is pretty much my favorite thing I've made this year. The textures are varied, and it's oily enough to be satisfying but not gross. I love the meltiness of fried eggplant, but here it shares the stage with more healthily cooked things like steamed tempeh and green beans.

That everything needs to be mised-en-place and then added at the end makes this recipe pretty fail-proof. You should end up with succulent tempeh, melty eggplant, and slightly crisp green beans. Oh, and celery is a thing! Whenever I get a lot of it in dishes at Thai restaurants, I assume they're just bulking out the dish, but it actually contributes a subtle bitterness to this dish, which balances out some of the sweet and salty flavors.

I think basil would be an obvious and delicious addition as well.

Spicy and Sour Eggplant with Tempeh and Green Beans

canola oil -- enough to fill 1/2 in of a saucepan
1 large or 2 small eggplant, 1-in cubes (skins ok)
1 c green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-in pieces
1 block tempeh, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 c water
1 TB tamari
1 tsp tamarind paste
pinch sugar
1 onion, chopped
1 or 2 red chilies
5 garlic
1/2 in ginger
2 stalks celery
mint, basil, scallions, etc

1. In a medium saucepan, heat canola oil to very hot and fry eggplant pieces. It will take about 3-4 minutes until they are soft and slightly browned.
2. Steam tempeh and green beans by pouring boiling water over them separately and then draining after 10 minutes.
3. Prepare simmering sauce in a pyrex by mixing water, tamari, tamarind, and sugar.
4. In a large saucepan or frying pan, heat oil. Saute onion with chilies until soft and fragrant, then add garlic, ginger, and celery. Continue sauteeing until everything is soft and slightly cooked. Then add steamed and drained tempeh and cook several minutes.
5. Now add simmering sauce and reduce heat slightly. Cook tempeh in sauce until it is mostly reduced (5-10 min), then add beans and eggplant right before the end.
6. Serve hot with noodles or rice. Garnish with cilantro, lime, sriracha, and other herbs as desired. Serves about 4.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


This recipe from holy cow! was delicious and wholesome. As I made it with squash and with carrots, it had a sort of autumnal feel to it. I changed the cooking method a bit, not because I think it's better, but because it was what I was more comfortable with. And for similar reasons of convenience, I used carrots instead of drumsticks and skipped a few other ingredients. Make sure to add salt to taste at the end.

This recipe made a huge batch; I would halve it next time. I should add that ultimately I preferred this dal and this one with broccoli to this recipe.

Kholamba (Konkani Sambar)
(from holy cow!)

3/4 c dry yellow split peas
2 c cubed winter squash
15 2-inch pieces of carrots
1 large onion, diced
8 large cloves of garlic, minced
For the masala:
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
15 black peppercorns
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)
2 dry red chillies
1 TB tamarind paste
1/4 cup coconut milk or 2 tbsp freshly grated coconut
salt to taste

1. Boil the split peas with plenty of water and with 1/4 tsp turmeric until very tender and mushy. In a separate pot, parboil the squash and the carrots and set aside.
2. Toast the dry ingredients for the masala (I do this one by one in a toaster oven). Cool in a plate and transfer to a blender along with the tamarind. If you are using fresh coconut, toast it to a light brown shade. If you're using coconut milk, add it directly to the blender. Blend the spices with enough water to make a smooth paste. Set aside.
3. In a cast iron pan, heat some oil, saute the onion, and then add the garlic and cook some more. Don't let the garlic turn dark brown or burn. Now add the blended masala and let it come to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for five minutes.
4. Add the cooked vegetables and the cooked dal. Bring the mixture to a boil and then let it all cook on low heat, about 10 minutes, for the flavors to meld. Add water if the stew is too thick.
5. Add salt to taste. Serve hot over boiled rice. Serves about 8.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I made this cake for my girlfriend Zippy's birthday. Cream cheese (and cream cheese frosting) is one of the few things for which I have not been able to create a natural, vegan substitute, but it is an essential part of carrot cake. Actually, let's be honest: it's probably the main reason why people like carrot cake. And for that matter, red velvet cake (it's like a bland chocolate cake with lots of food coloring? really??).

I would do anything for love. I would even do that. So I bought me some more vegan cream cheese from trader joe's (I used it once to make rugelach). And then I found this recipe.

I had two major issues with this recipe. First, the cake took forever to bake through. The recipe said 18-20 minutes, but mine took at least 30. I think this is part of the reason that the final product was a little dry. Secondly and similarly, the frosting was way too wet with only 2 c powdered sugar. I used at least 3 cups, and  it still could have been firmer.

So I went into this expecting this cake to be something of a failure. I was also concerned that the cake lacked enough sugar and salt. But when you put the cake and the frosting together--it all seems to balance out. I'd still like to find a moister cake (or one that actually bakes in 20 min), but this ended up pretty delicious.

Classic Vegan Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes: 2 8×8″ or 2 9″ round cakes

2 1/3 all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt (or more--see note)
6 TB flax seed meal
3/4 c warm water
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 c shredded carrots
1 c walnuts, chopped
8 oz vegan cream cheese
1/4 c margarine, softened
1 tsp vanilla
3 c powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ.
2. Line two 8×8″ pans with parchment paper.
3. In a small bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour through salt).
4. In a large bowl, whisk together flax seed meal and water. Beat in sugar and oil.
5. Add vanilla and carrots and mix until combined.
6. Add dry mix and stir until moistened.
7. Fold in walnuts.
8. Pour equal parts into pans.
9. Bake for 18-20 min, or until a toothpick comes out clean. (for me this was over 30 minutes).
10. Let cool in pans 10 minutes.
11. Use a knife to loosen edges of cake from pans.
12. Using parchment paper, lift cakes out of pans. Let cool fully on wire racks.
13. To make Cream Cheese Frosting, beat together cream cheese and margarine. Add vanilla and powdered sugar; whip until smooth. Don’t overbeat; in my experience, store-bought vegan cream cheese has a tendency to get runny.
14. To assemble, carefully remove parchment paper from one cake. Frost with cream cheese frosting, layer, and decorate with marzipan if desired. Serve chilled.