Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Butternut Squash with Coconut Milk and Harissa

I've put off writing this post for a while because I'm still feeling a bit traumatized. Let me be clear: this recipe from ecurry is a brilliant one, blending cuisines in a way that is innovative and delicious. But let me also be clear: I should have exercised some common sense on this one. 1/4 c of this harissa is nearly lethal.

multitasking, mise-ing en place for kale edamame salad and janet's pea curry

This recipe became like strega nona's pasta pot (or stone soup?) as we kept adding things to try to dilute the heat enough to where this would be edible. Even this blended soup, with stock and more coconut milk added, was still super spicy.

I was just so excited to use harissa! It brings marvellous flavors to so many different dishes. But you know what? You can always taste and add more later.

Butternut Squash with Harissa and Coconut Milk
(from ecurry)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 4-5 cups cubed approximately) **
1 c coconut milk (of all light coconut milk, if you want a lighter version)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon oil
3/4 inch fresh ginger, peeled and julienned – divided
salt to taste
1-2 TB harissa (add more to taste)
few tablespoons of fresh mint leaves, julienned

1. Peel and cube butternut squash. Wash and pat dry.
2. Combine coconut milk with sugar and set aside.
3. Heat oil in a pan. Add half the julienned ginger and stir fry for about half a minute and then add the cubed squash. Add salt and cook them at high heat until the outside of the cubes are coated with the oil and they just start to turn brown at the corners. Add the harissa and toss and cook again at medium heat until all the harissa has coated the cubes. About 2 -3 minutes.
4. Now add the coconut milk/cream and fresh mint leaves, stir and bring it to a simmer. Cover partially and cook until the butternut squash softens and there is still some liquid left in the pan. Now add the rest of the julienned ginger and stir them in. Finish off with fresh mint leaves. Serve with rice or flat bread. Serves 4-6 as a side.

beet / bean / okra quickpickles (quickles?)

More pickles!

Okra pickles are from the supermarket. The green beans were pickled with red wine vinegar and garlic cloves.

Beet pickles with white vinegar, sesame oil, and lime juice

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Two New Recipes with Vadouvan

It was hot, and I had a lot of vegetables.

Thus started an amazing new discovery: these two dishes, and their star component: vadouvan. Vadouvan is a French-ified curry powder that comes pre-loaded with onion, garlic, shallots, and salt, along with spices like turmeric and mustard seeds. My friends Clare and Nako sent me some from the spice house in Evanston, IL, over a year ago, and while I'd sprinkled it into something, I'd never let it be the star ingredient before. Same goes for nigella seeds, which I also used here: usually they have to share a role with mustard seeds and/or cumin seeds, but here they held their own with their more subtle flavor.

Since these recipes are more like stir-fries, it would be pretty easy to change around the vegetables, add a chili at the beginning for more heat, etc. I really like the combo of vegetables in the first recipe, because the cauliflower stayed crisp while the mushrooms became lovely chewy bits, with the okra somewhere in between. When cooking with okra I think it helps to add something acidic, like tomatoes or amchoor powder, to minimize the slime factor.

After this first recipe is a second, similar, simpler one that I actually made earlier that same day, but ate all of it right out of the pan. That one is more of a side dish with crisp green beans.

Stir-Fried Mixed Veggies with Tomato and Vadouvan

2 TB canola oil
1 TB nigella seeds
6-8 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp vadouvan
1/2 tsp asafoetida (optional)
1 c cauliflower florets
1 c mushrooms, quartered
2 c okra in 1/2-in round slices
3/4 c diced tomatoes w/juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp amchoor powder (optional)
salt and cayenne to taste

1. In a large frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat and add seeds. When seeds start to splutter, add garlic. Cook for a moment, then add vadouvan and asafoetida. Cook while stirring until everything is fragrant but not burning.
2. Add cauliflower and cook for a few minutes, then add mushrooms and cook a bit longer, all the while stirring to coat the vegetables in the oil and spices. When mushrooms start to soften, add okra and cook a bit longer--it's really nice to get a little bit of browning on the okra.
3. Add tomatoes, turmeric, and amchoor, and stir and cook a few more minutes. Add salt and cayenne to taste. Serves about 4.


Garlicky Green Beans with Vadouvan and Nigella Seeds

2 tsp canola oil
1 tsp nigella seeds
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp vadouvan
pinch asafetida (optional)
2-3 c green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-in pieces
smoked salt to taste
cayenne to taste

1. First, blanch the beans by placing them in a large pot or bowl and pouring boiling water on them, enough to cover them. Let sit for 10 minutes.
2. In a frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat and add seeds. When seeds start to splutter, add garlic. Cook for a moment, then add vadouvan and asafoetida. Cook while stirring until everything is fragrant but not burning. 
3. Drain green beans well, then add them to the pan. Stir to coat with the oil and spices, and try to get a little bit of sizzle-browning on some of the beans, but don't overcook! The beans should still be crisp.
4. Turn off the heat and season with smoked salt and cayenne to taste. Good hot or cold. Serves 2-3.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Braised Tofu and Bean Sprouts with Coconut Milk

I found this recipe while desperately looking for something to do with bean sprouts besides another stir-fry. It is wonderful! I've never had a dish quite like this before. Simple, yet an explosion of flavors and textures.

The only changes I've made are to use more tofu and add some cilantro, and to omit the curry leaves (only because I didn't have any).

Braised Tofu and Bean Sprouts with Coconut Milk 
(from veggie belly)

14 oz firm tofu
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
pinch asafetida (optional)
1 green serrano chili, seeded and minced
1/4 tsp turmeric
4 c bean sprouts (about 8oz)
1/2 cup coconut milk

1. Drain the tofu, and gently pat it dry with an absorbent towel. Cut the tofu into ½ inch cubes and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a wok or large sauce pan. Add the mustard seeds and let them pop over medium heat.
3. Once they pop, throw in the chili and asafetida. Stir for about 30 seconds or till the chili starts to sizzle.
4. Sprinkle turmeric over the oil. Immediately add cubed tofu. Mix everything gently so the turmeric coats the tofu.
5. Cook the tofu on medium heat, flipping it around occasionally, till it is lightly browned on all sides. About 8 minutes.
6. Then add the bean sprouts, coconut milk, and salt. If you want more liquid, add more coconut milk. Cook just till the bean sprouts wilt a little – about 2 minutes. Toss in cilantro and serve hot or cold. Serves about 2.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Soups Good Bad and Ugly [but really good]: 2 Asparagus Soups and One Beet Soup

Each of these soups I tried both hot and cold. I'm not always sold on cold soups, but it's been so hot here that I had to try, with ambivalence.

This has been the summer of green soups. In trying different ones, I realize that a few choices can produce a huge variety of soups:

  • just asparagus, or bulk up with another veggie? Or no asparagus at all and only use milder vegetables?
  • roast or sautee the vegetables?
  • cashew cream? coconut cream? neither?
  • herbs - mint, cilantro, dill, basil? brighten up with citrus as well/instead?
This soup, adapted from seitan is my motor, is the first of several. Because of what I had on hand, I used cilantro and dried mint instead of basil, and cashew cream instead of coconut cream.

Simple Asparagus and Pea Soup 
(adapted from seitan is my motor)

1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
14.1 oz green asparagus, chopped
7 oz. frozen green peas
3 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup cashew cream
2 TB chopped fresh cilantro
1 TB dried mint
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large pot. Add onion and fry for 5 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic and fry for 1-2 more minutes.
2. Place asparagus, peas and broth in the pot and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Add cashew cream and stir until dissolved. Place in a blender together with herbs and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or chilled. Serves about 3. 


Then there was this beet soup. Why was it not good?? There were oven-roasted beets, soaked cashews, onion, garlic... but I think I got a bit too adventurous, or rather, I tried to go on three different adventures at once. Maybe if it were thinner. Maybe if I hadn't used ginger and worcestershire sauce and lime juice. But it looked so pretty!


But this next soup, a recipe from vegan richa, was really, really good. It was a bit thinner than the top soup, which I think makes it feel more delicate and less cloying. My mom and I also found grilled asparagus in the freezer section at Trader Joes (in NC; I haven't seen it in LA), which made this recipe a breeze to pull together. Because the asparagus was roasted but the garlic and onions weren't, we had to change up the method a little bit.

Roasted Asparagus Soup with Dill and Basil
(adapted from vegan richa)

14-16 asparagus spears, roasted and cut into 1-in pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 white or red onion, sliced
oil, salt and pepper as needed
1/2 cup soaked cashews or 1/2 cup cashew cream
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1/2 tsp dried dill or 2 tsp fresh dill
1/4 cup packed basil leaves
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt or taste
2 tsp nutritional yeast
a very generous dash of black pepper

1. In a large pot, sautee the onions and garlic. Add the asparagus, give a few stirs, and then turn off the heat.
2. Blend sauteed vegetables with the cashews, broth, dill, basil, olive oil, salt and nutritional yeast.
3. Add blended puree to a pan and heat at medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Stir frequently. 8 - 10 minutes.
4. Taste and adjust salt. Add more water/broth if needed for desired consistency.
5. Garnish with cashew cream and black pepper. Serves about 3.

Cauliflower Meatballs

These meatballs are a great idea. I can see how you could tweak them to get all kinds of different flavors, provided the amount of bulk, liquid, and salt stay constant.

I didn't have quite enough walnuts to follow the original recipe, so I compensated by adding the equivalent in cauliflower. I also halved the salt, just because it seemed like a lot, and I still thought they were too salty--especially with the mushroom gravy I put on them. But they baked out perfectly (and I wish I had a photo of the pretty finished project). These would be great on spaghetti or in place of falafel, or you could make a larger version as a veggie burger. Thanks to the bread crumbs, they held together quite well.

Cauliflower Meatballs
(via Sketch-Free Eating)

1/2 head of cauliflower, raw
1/2 c cooked lentils
1 c walnuts
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp oil
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin
thyme and oregano (I used dried)
3/4 c bread crumbs
1 tbsp water (if needed)

Buzz it all up in a food processor. Form into balls. Bake for 40 minutes on 350F flipping halfway through. Made about 16 balls.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Green Pea Curry with Tomatoes and Cashews (Mattar Masala)

I made a lot of food when I visited my mom last month, and I'm still catching up on those posts. This creamy, tomato-based pea curry was marvelous--I'm still thinking about the smell that filled the kitchen when I was sauteeing all the spices and onions.
Toasted cashews are ground into a paste, giving the impression that there's dairy in the sauce. I used 2 c canned tomatoes instead of fresh, and ended up with lots more sauce. The sauce was delicious, so I wasn't sad about this, but next time I would only use 1 c canned tomatoes. I was also thinking about using green fava beans or edamame rather than peas next time, for more protein. Also, it's not a spicy recipe, so feel free to substitute cayenne in place of aleppo pepper, or to throw in some minced chili if you want some heat--I added a dried red chili when I was sauteeing the ingredients for the masala paste (pictured below:).

Green Pea Curry (Mattar Masala)
(from taste space)

1/4 cup raw cashews, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil, or oil of choice
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
4 whole cloves
1 1/2 inch piece cinnamon stick
2 black cardamon pods, slightly crushed
1/2 tsp Aleppo chile flakes
1 medium onion, chopped
1.5 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (I used 2 c canned diced tomatoes; next time I would use only 1 c)
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil, or oil of choice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, diced
8-10 frozen curry leaves
3 cups green peas (thawed if frozen)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp Aleppo chile powder
1/2 tsp amchoor powder (optional)
pinch of asafoetida
3/4 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
fresh cilantro, for garnish


1. Begin by making the masala paste: In a large skillet over medium-low heat, roast cashews until lightly browned and fragrant, around 5-7 minutes. Remove form heat to cool, then place in a food processor.

2. In the same skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Once hot, add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds and stir for 30-60 seconds, or until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Quickly add the cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and chile flakes, cover and gently wiggle the skillet occasionally, so the spices do not burn.

3. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes, until softened and browned. Add the ginger and garlic, stirring for 1 minute more, without allowing to burn. Deglaze with the tomatoes, stirring to incorporate the spices. Cook for 5-10 minutes until thickened, stirring throughout so it does not burn. Stir in the cilantro and allow to wilt, around 1 minute. Remove from heat and add to the food processor. Fish out the cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks because they won’t do anything in the food processor. Next, pulse into you achieve a smooth paste. Return the cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. (This paste can be saved at this point; store in the refrigerator until needed).

4. For the curry, in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add onion and saute for 5 minutes until softened and lightly brown. Add the tomatoes and curry leaves, simmering until the tomatoes cook down, around 5-10 minutes. Add peas and cook for 4-5 minutes, until the peas are just tender. Stir in the masala paste, turmeric, ground coriander, chile powder, amchoor powder, asafoetida, garam masala and salt. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of water, to achieve your desired level of sauciness. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so that it does not stick. Add additional water, if required. Remove form heat and let stand for 5 minutes to cool, prior to serving. Fish out the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and any other bits not pulverized in the masala paste.

5. Serve with your choice of side (pictured with brown rice) and garnish with cilantro, if desired. Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Eggplant in Tahini and Mustard Sauce

I love eggplant, and mustard, and tahini, but I don't know that I'd ever had them together before. This unusual recipe from ecurry may not look the best (at least in the only snapshot I got of it before it was all eaten), but it's really delicious.

Does anyone have a good mustard oil to recommend? It's illegal to sell it for food uses in the US, and I'm a little wary of buying something that says it's a massage oil or aromatherapy oil, even if that is just a workaround. I've cooked with it before when I was house-sitting, and it was delicious! I'm sure it would really improve this recipe, too, though it was good with canola oil anyway.

Eggplant in Tahini and Mustard Sauce
(from ecurry)

4 medium Chinese/Asian eggplants or 1 large American Eggplant (about 8-10 inches long)
4 tablespoon oil pure mustard oil of any cooking oil +( 1 more tablespoon of pure virgin mustard oil – optional)
1/2 teaspoon kalonji/nigella seeds
6 hot green chilli peppers (more or less, adjust to taste) – slit
salt to taste
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon Kashmiri Red Chili Powder (or cayenne or paprika) – adjust amount to taste
2.5 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds (or black for stronger flavors);  I have used a mix of both
2.5 heaped tablespoon Tahini (or Sesame Paste) (recipe for easy Homemade Tahini)
1 teaspoon sugar (not to make it sweet; just for the balance of taste)
about 1/4 cup water to make the paste + more water as needed for the sauce

Wash the eggplant and pat dry. Slice them 2 inches long (about 3/4 inches wide) or in cubes. Sprinkle some salt and half a teaspoon of turmeric and toss well. Allow the eggplant to sit/sweat for about 10 minutes.

Make a paste with the mustard seeds and 1/4 cup water. Whisk in the sesame paste/tahini  and red chili powder, the rest of the turmeric and the sugar with the mustard paste and set aside. (If you do not have tahini, use lightly toasted sesame seeds along with the mustard seeds to make a mustard sesame paste).

Heat half of the oil in a pan (save the spoonful to drizzle). Add the nigella seeds and some of the slit chilli peppers (remove seeds and membrane carefully from the peppers if you do not want the heat; the fresh flavor is vital here). As the seeds sizzle and the peppers have brown blisters, add the eggplants and increase the heat.

Cook the eggplants while tossing frequently until they start to soften and brown. Most of the oil will have been absorbed by the eggplants. They would be about half cooked. Now add the rest of the oil, except the spoonful to drizzle and add the mustard tahini paste to the pan and toss everything together.

Cook at medium – low heat while gently stirring, preventing the paste from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 3-5 minutes until the raw taste of the mustard and sesame is gone. Add about a cup (or maybe a little bit more depending on how much sauce you want) of water, give it a gently stir and partially cover to cook until the eggplants are done. The sauce should thicken and be able to coat the eggplants and have some extra.

Adjust salt. Finish of with a drizzle of pure mustard oil and more chili peppers if you want.

Serve hot over rice or with any flat breads.

Serves 4-6 as side

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Veganism, masculinity, fat-shaming

It's not every day that you listen to an NPR interview with an academic whom you've met, conducted by a reporter who once sublet your apartment! This story on vegan men and masculinity touches on many of the issues that continue to inform my blogging and my research.

While I'm reposting links, I should also mention fuckyeahfatvegans. While I don't identify as fat, I absolutely love this tumblr. I love how this blog calls out the hypocrisy of the ableism and thin privilege of vegan discourse. While I do think that eating vegan is generally healthier, I don't think that this is the most compelling reason to go vegan. And I certainly don't think that it's okay to use fat or otherwise nonnormative bodies as negative examples in "go vegan!" propoganda (as in this cartoon).

Animal rights have always been the stickiest, least comfortable arrow in my "why vegan?" quiver. I think it's really complicated, and I am still open to the idea that in environments where eating vegan is not agriculturally feasible, there are good ways to be meat eaters. This is part of my reason to eat as an omnivore while studying abroad in Dakar, Senegal. That said, for someone living in the U.S., it's not only feasible but also ecologically imperative to avoid eating meat, given the way it's produced here. And from there, maybe it's only a matter of degree from a worldview that de-emphasizes the individual with respect to the planet, to a worldview that de-emphasizes the individual with respect to the energy and uniqueness of other beings.

I don't know. 

I don't know. Like I said, it's so much harder to articulate this aspect than the fact that one quarter pounder uses the equivalent resources of two months' worth of showers. But even if the animal rights ethics aren't obvious, 1) the environmental argument is obvious, and 2) why not err on the side of care, given that we have the option?

Even with this agnostic position on animal rights, it seems clear to me that campaigns like PETA's (which have employed sex, fat-shaming, and even autism scare tactics [rufkm?!]) totally miss the point. If veganism is to mean something, it needs to be a self-aware, politically conscious stance that privileges humility and compassion over self-righteousness and hysteria.