Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Orange Blossom Anzac Cookies

I used to joke about proposing a Watson Fellowship project on "Flatbreads of the world."  While that never panned out, it seems I could do a scaled-down project on "Oatmeal cookies of the Commonwealth," given my attempts at flapjacks and now this.

The Anzac biscuit is a cookie from Australian and New Zealand that dates back to World War I.  Apparently, the original Anzac biscuit was not very delicious; it resembled hard tack and was valued for its long shelf life, which enabled it to be sent overseas to soldiers.  In their current, more delicious form, the cookies typically contain oats and coconut (it now occurs to me that anzac cookies are very similar to garam masala cookies).  They're also notable in that they do not use eggs due to wartime shortages.  So, they're vegan by default (especially since the original recipe would use golden syrup rather than honey).

The cookie (excuse me, 'biscuit') is actually protected by law, which means the name can't be affixed to anything but the original basic recipe and cannot be used in conjunction with the word cookie.  That's just in Australia... right?

For indeed, like the garam masala cookies, these ones have yet another spin on them.  I have been itching to use the mazaher, or orange blossom water, I picked up a while ago.  Wouldn't you know, Heidi Swanson came to the rescue.  I thought it was pretty crazy to put mazaher in an anzac cookie, but it was one of the best things I've ever tasted.  And, given that the Anzac corps served in Egypt, I'm sure there's some sort of tenuous connection to be made between the Australian cookie and the Middle Eastern flavoring.

But this cookie is going to go up there in my top five, and that's a serious matter.  It was interesting and buttery and textured and fragrant (just enough orange water and zest) all at once; crispy on the outside and deviously chewy on the inside.  And, for reasons unknown to me (the amount of butter? the orange zest?), the cookies turned the most beautiful yellow-gold color when they baked.

The recipe worked really well.  Adding baking-soda-water to hot melted butter and honey produces a science-experiment-like reaction; I'm not sure why this is done, but it's pretty fun.  The only thing I think I changed was I didn't quite use the zest of a whole medium orange; I wanted the orange blossom water to be the focal flavor.

I'm sure that if you left out the zest and/or the mazaher you would still have a very delicious cookie.

Orange Blossom Anzac Cookies

1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 c rolled oats
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 c finely shredded non-sweetened coconut
scant 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 c vegan butter
2 TB honey, corn syrup, golden syrup (or agave?)
zest of one medium orange (or less, to taste)
1 TB boiling water
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 TB orange blossom water

1. Preheat oven to 325*F degrees. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl; mix well.
2. In a small saucepan over low heat combine the butter, syrup (or honey), and orange zest. Stir until melted and remove from heat. In a small bowl whisk together the boiling water and baking soda. Stir it into the butter. Now pour the butter mixture over the big bowl of oats and stir. Add the orange blossom water and stir again. Mix with hands if needed.
3. Form into balls, flatten slightly, and bake on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake for about 12 minutes or until deeply golden.  Makes 18-30 cookies, depending on size.

P.S.: The new night watchman says hi.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pumpkin Pie with Coconut Cream

This pie was so good!!!  I've never made a vegan pumpkin pie, and I pretty much refuse to resort to putting tofu or tofutti products in baked goods, so I was worried that it wouldn't hold up.  But the texture was really, really lovely.  It felt lighter than the pumpkin pies I remember (with egg? sweetened condensed milk? cream? in them), but there is a cup of coconut milk in it adding both richness and nuttiness.  The cornstarch and egg replacer did the job just fine; I'm not sure you need the egg replacer, but I thought, "better safe than sorry."  I keep meaning to buy arrowroot, but cornstarch is sooo much cheaper and it works just fine (unless you're using it in something clear).

Other than using egg replacer instead of eggs, the changes I made were very minimal.  I didn't need nearly as many hazelnuts as the recipe called for; so much so that I was able to use my extra toasted-and-ground nuts in place of almonds or pine nuts in the Stuffed Mushrooms.  Also, I thought that using a premade spice blend was not helpful or convenient here, so I basically halved the blend recipe and then put it into the pie recipe proper.  How often do you need pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice as opposed to cloves, or cinnamon, or ginger, on their own?

So the pie has just enough spices and not too much sugar, and though it holds together it's rather light and puddingy.  These textures and flavors go great with the basic whole wheat oil pie crust that I often use.  I pre-baked it this time, look (at right):

Finally, I topped the pie with coconut cream, the recipe for which follows.

Spice-Kissed Pumpkin Pie
(adapted from 101cookbooks)

1 c hazelnuts (divided) , toasted
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 TB freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground allspice
1/4 tsp freshly ground cloves
3/4 tsp ground ginger (pre-ground)
1 tsp salt
1 TB cornstarch (or arrowroot)
1 1/2 c of roasted pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ener-g egg replacer "eggs"
1 c coconut milk

1. Preheat oven to 350*F.
2. Puree the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor until they turn into a hazelnut paste, past the 'crumble' stage. To make the pumpkin pie filling, whisk together the brown sugar, spices, salt, and arrowroot/cornstarch. Stir in the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Now stir in the 'eggs' and coconut milk until just combined. Set aside.
3. Before filling the pie crust, crumble the hazelnut paste on top of the pie dough into the pie plate, quickly and gently press it into a thin layer across the bottom creating a layer of hazlenuts that will sit between the dough and the filling. Fill the pie crust with the filling and bake for about 50 minutes - the center of the pie should just barely jiggle when you move the pie - the edges should be set.
4. Let the pie cool a bit; this makes slicing less messy. Serve with whipped coconut cream and a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts.  Makes one 9 or 10-inch pie.


Spice-Kissed Pumpkin Pie with Coconut Cream

What was to be "coconut whipped cream" ended up not so whipped.  This is my fault; I only had "light" coconut milk (for some reason, this is the only kind Trader Joe's sells), and I think the fat content wasn't high enough.  As instructed by ehow.com, I refrigerated a can of coconut milk, and when I opened it, the fat and the coconut water had separated.  I scooped the creamiest part into a bowl with some powdered sugar and beat it with an electric hand mixer.  After a good ten minutes, it was thicker, but definitely not "whipped."  Did I give up too soon?  No matter.  This thick, creamy topping was really delicious.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chickpea-Eggplant Stew with Kale and Harissa

I love Thanksgiving, but the holiday definitely has the potential to incite controversy and discomfort, perhaps especially among vegans.  As I've written before, for me eating vegan goes hand in hand with trying to be more aware of the relationships between our food choices and the matrices of social and political power from which those choices will never be independent.

So when a friend of mine--whose passionate dedication to Palestinian liberation I really admire--told me she couldn't come to Thanksgiving because she would be boycotting US imperialism and settler colonialism... it made me pause.  And while I respect her decision, I think this is what I've decided for myself: To be sure, the origins of Thanksgiving are pretty icky (though, to further complicate things, it's worth noting that Thanksgiving wasn't institutionalized as a US holiday until much more recently).  But surely a holiday that celebrates our connection to the seasons and to local foods, thus fostering mindfulness about how we eat and whom we eat with, has the power to be one of the greatest forces for good among the holidays we celebrate.

Of course, there are other reasons why Thanksgiving can be problematic.  As with other family-gathering-feast type holidays, eating vegan among omnivores (depending on how those omnivores eat) can be... weird.  I'm not talking about the squeamish having-to-look-at-meat kind of crap--get over it; it's really not a big deal.  But if you're trying to fit your eating practices into what everyone else is eating, it's often easiest to just switch things in and out rather than reconfigure the entire way you (or your family) think about constructing a meal.  Now, I've never had a Tofurkey; I'll bet it tastes okay, despite its coming from a box, but I'm pretty sure that Tofurkeys just make vegans look bad.  That kind of thing plays right into perceptions of a vegan diet as characterized by lack or fakeness... and there is some serious gendering going on here in how our culture talks about meat-eating.  The very possibility that there need not be one main dish in relation to which everything else is backup seems an idea whose radicalism goes far beyond American food culture.  Is it any wonder that William Blake was a vegetarian?

All of which is to say... where was the protein in this Thanksgiving feast?  Well, it was everywhere: in the wheat berries in the squash salad, in the squash seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, almonds, and hazelnuts that graced almost every dish, even in the whole wheat flour in the pie crust.  And, of course, in the chickpeas in this stew:

Finally, I've used up my harissa.  Time to start all over.  Or maybe I should try to use all that berbere?

This recipe uses a very interesting combination of flavors: basil and oregano as well as roasted eggplant and harissa.  And fennel might, but doesn't usually, come with either.  The result is a delicious mixture of tastes, with just enough heat.

I changed only a few things in this recipe from urban vegan: I roasted the eggplant over the stove to get that mouthwatering, if carcinogenic, flame taste.  Since the tomatoes I got last minute from the supermarket looked a little waxy, I roasted them too (though in the oven) and peeled off their skins before chopping and proceeding.  Every kitchen appliance I own failed to turn onions and garlic into a paste, so I just chopped them finely by hand and moved on, weeping about my lack of a proper food processor.  Oh, and I used fresh parsley and cooked dried chickpeas, rather than dried and canned (respectively).

Chickpea-Eggplant Stew with Kale and Harissa
(adapted from urban vegan)

1 medium eggplant
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped
6-7 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
large dollop of harissa
3 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped or oven-roasted, skinned, and chopped
1 cup kale, trimmed and chopped finely
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried basil
3 TB fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 15-oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 450. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with cooking spray. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork, and place eggplant and tomatoes on cookie sheet in heated oven and roast for about 45 minutes or until they're pooped. Remove from oven, allow to cool. Then scrape out the insides, chop, if needed, and set aside.  Alternatively, roast the eggplant directly over a gas-stove flame (like so).  This makes it more flavorful, but if you're roasting the tomatoes too, it's not the most efficient way to do it.
2. In a large casserole or high-sided pan, heat oil over medium low. Add onion, garlic, and harrissa. Cook about 10 minutes, or until everything is translucent. Be careful not to burn.
3. Add remaining ingredients, including eggplant pulp but excluding the chickpeas. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to low. Cook for 1-2 hours, adding more oil, water, or veggie stock as needed. This is the most important part of this dish...the longer it simmers, the better it will taste, since the flavors need to meld.
4. Add the chickpeas about 30 minutes before you want to eat. Cover and simmer, adjust the seasonings, as needed, then enjoy.  Serves about 4.

Deep-Fried Stuffing Balls and Cranberry-Ginger Sauce

There's just something about bread that has been breaded and fried...

Deep-Fried Stuffing Balls

I believe Reed used this recipe from the Christian Science Monitor.  He then formed the stuffing into balls, dipped each one in soymilk, then dredged it in breadcrumbs, and dropped it into a vat of canola oil.  Truly amazing.

Thanksgiving Stuffing

5 c bread, cubed
1 c onion, chopped
2 TB vegan butter
3/4 c celery, chopped
2 1/2 tsp dried sage
1 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
6 TB melted vegan butter
1 apple, peeled and chopped into small pieces
3/4 c dried cranberries
1/3 c minced parsley
1-2 c vegetable stock

1. Preheat oven to 350* F. Cut your bread into cubes, and put them on baking sheets on a single layer. Bake in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Fry the onions in two tablespoons of butter over medium heat till evenly browned, occasionally stirring. Add the celery, sage, rosemary, and thyme, and cook for about two minutes, stirring to blend. Remove from heat.
3. Place the toasted bread cubes in a large mixing bowl, then pour the saute mixture on top of the bread. Pour six tablespoons of melted vegan butter over the mixture, then add the apples, cranberries and parsley. Mix well.
4. Drizzle with about one cup of the broth until thoroughly moist but not soggy. Mix again. Transfer to a baking dish and allow to bake for about 20 minutes.  Serves 4-6.


I thought these amazing little balls of oil and bread went really well with the cranberry-ginger sauce I'd made, which was lucky, because the sauce didn't really go with anything else.  I love how stupidly easy it is to turn real cranberries into sauce--why would you ever buy it canned?  Well, there is the fact that fresh cranberries are only available like one month out of the year.  I stocked up this time: I have so many cans of pumpkin puree and bags of fresh cranberries (to freeze); I should be good during the dry spell of January to October 2011.

Not a complete recipe here, sorry; I just kept adding things to taste and to sight.  All you really need is cranberries, water, and sugar.  And even though I don't like the sauce sweet, I still needed quite a bit of sugar.  Cranberries are intensely sour.  I feel like cranberries, pomegranate molasses, and tamarind need to get together and figure out world peace or something.  They come from such drastically different climates and plants, but they all do the same kind of thing culinarily.

Cranberry-Ginger Sauce

1 bag fresh cranberries
sugar to taste (1/2-1 c?)
water as needed
1-in piece ginger, peeled and minced
juice of 1/2 lemon
ground cloves (1/2 tsp?)
ground cinnamon (1 tsp?)
vanilla extract (1/2 tsp?)
tiny pinch salt
black pepper

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and cook on low for several hours.  Add water as needed to keep sauce from burning.  If it's too watery, leave the lid off; otherwise, cook covered, stirring occasionally in any case.  When you remove sauce from heat and allow it to cool, it will firm up further.

Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Pine Nuts

Gratuitous pretty picture of expensive nuts

Holy Alice in Wonderland, Batman... This dish included the largest apple and the smallest Brussels sprout I have ever seen.

I think the combination of B-sprouts and apples is a very solid one--In fact, I'm really surprised I haven't blogged about a cabbage-apple recipe.  That said, I was a little disappointed by this recipe.  For one, the sizes/shapes of the ingredients were a little incongruous: next time, I'd cut the apples into 1-in-diced cubes instead of slices.  Then they'd match the fineness of the sprouts better.  This would also keep them from overcooking unevenly.  Secondly, the maple syrup's power was somewhat wasted on the apples.  Next time, I'd add it near the end to both the apples and the sprouts; I think it would have more influence on the dish as opposed to just making the apples sweeter.  Oh, and I undercooked the sprouts.  :(  All this said, though, apples, Brussels sprouts, maple, and nuts are quite delicious together.

Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Apples and Pine Nuts

1 large, crisp apple, large dice
juice of 1 lemon
a couple pinches of fine-grain sea salt
a couple splashes of olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
a scant tablespoon of maple syrup
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
12 ounces (3/4 pound) brussels sprouts, washed and cut into 1/8-inch wide ribbons


1. Soak the apples in a bowl filled with water and the juice of one lemon.
*see notes for suggested alternate cooking method*
2. Heat oil in skillet.  Stir in the garlic, wait a few seconds, now stir in the maple syrup, and cook another 30 seconds or so. Drain the apples, and add them to the skillet, cooking for another minute. Scrape the apple mixture out onto a plate and set aside while you cook the brussels sprouts.
3. In the same pan (no need to wash), add a touch more oil, another pinch of salt, and dial the heat up to medium-high. When the pan is nice and hot stir in the shredded brussels sprouts. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring a couple times (but not too often) until you get some golden bits, and the rest of the sprouts are bright and delicious.
4. Stir the apple mixture back into the skillet alongside the brussels sprouts 1/2 of the pine nuts - gently stir to combine. Remove from heat and enjoy immediately sprinkled with the remaining pine nuts.  Serves about 3-4.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Roasted Squash Salad with Cilantro-Sunflower Seed Dressing

I am really loving the green sauces as of late.  This simple 'salad' consists only of grains, roasted onions and squash, and a really neat dressing made out of sunflower seeds and cilantro.

Because I had no wild rice, I used wheat berries instead.  I think the important thing there is to use a grain that has tons of texture to contrast with the soft squash.  I also topped the salad with the squash seeds I'd reserved and toasted.  Ok, I forgot this at dinner, but at least I remembered for the photo shoot the next morning...

The only other thing I'd note about this recipe is that it makes a TON of dressing.  I'm going to have to keep finding things to put it on... which reminds me: that Georgian Cilantro Sauce from last week was amazing on pasta, too.

Roasted Squash Salad with Cilantro-Sunflower Seed Dressing

3 cups of pumpkin (or other winter squash), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes, seeds reserved
3 medium red onions peeled and quartered
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt
 2 c cooked wheat berries
1/3 c sunflower seeds
1/3 c olive oil (I skimped on this a bit)
2 TB lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1 TB honey
2 TB warm water
1/2 c cilantro, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375*F.  Toss the pumpkin in a generous splash of olive oil along with a couple pinches of salt, and turn out onto a baking sheet. At the same time, toss the onions with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and turn out onto a separate baking sheet. Roast both for about 45 minutes, or until squash is brown and caramelized. The same goes for the onions, they should be deeply colored, caramelized, and soft throughout by the time they are done roasting. Flip about every 15 minutes.
2. In the meantime, make the dressing. With a hand blender or food processor puree the sunflower seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and honey until creamy. You may need to add a few tablespoons of warm water to thin the dressing a bit. Stir in the cilantro, saving just a bit to garnish the final plate later. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.
3. Clean the squash seeds and pat dry.  Roast in the oven, on the stovetop, or in toaster oven until slightly brown and crispy.  Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, toss the wheat berries with a large dollop of the dressing. Add the onions; gently toss once or twice. Turn the rice and onions out onto a platter and top with the roasted squash. Finish with another drizzle of dressing, the toasted squash seeds, and any remaining chopped cilantro.  Serves 4.

Thanksgiving Recap Begins

Every time she gave a party she had this feeling of being something not herself, and that every one was unreal in one way; much more real in another.  It was, she thought, partly their clothes, partly being taken out of their ordinary ways, partly the background, it was possible to say things you couldn't say anyhow else, things that needed an effort; possible to go much deeper.
Mrs. Dalloway 


Now all the candles were lit up, and the faces on both sides of the table were brought nearer by the candlelight, and composed, as they had not been in the twilight, into a party round a table, for the night was now shut off by panes of glass, which, far from giving any accurate view of the outside world, rippled it so strangely that here, inside the room, seemed to be order and dry land; there, outside, a reflection in which things wavered and vanished, waterily.
 To the Lighthouse

Sometimes the best way to stop feeling like Miss LaTrobe is to pretend you're Mrs. Ramsay or Mrs. Dalloway.

In any case, there's always party games.

(it's like telephone, get it?)

Thanksgiving has once again come and gone.  (Reed, I took no photos with you in them!?)  Cashew cheese, which has heretofore resulted in a goat-cheese-like unit, turned out to be really soft this time, but it was equally good this way, too.  Maybe that sums up this Thanksgiving.  Mishaps, lack of planning, and totally delightful company and food.  Christine brought some lovely pasta salads, Devon saved the day by grabbing the very last loaf of bread at Trader Joe's, Leigh-Michil and Ryan made a really bomb carrot cake with coconut and pineapple in it (recipe here), and Reed blew us away with deep-fried stuffing balls.

On the menu below, I'll add links as I finish posts about each dish.

Thanksgiving 2010

Spice-kissed pumpkin pie with coconut cream 
Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I actually decided to make this recipe because it was complicated.  I thought, with so many great chocolate chip cookie recipes around, is the extra work of this one really worth it?

Yes and no.  First off, this is a really, really great cookie.  It's slightly boozy and salty while still being true to its chocolatey focus.  The texture is amazing: crisp on the outside and fudgy on the inside.  So yeah, it's worth it.  Then again, the recipe calls for some extra steps that were not necessary: sifting the dry ingredients, rolling the dough in sugar and refrigerating it, rolling the cookies themselves in sugar.  I actually think the texture gets to shine more when you're not crunching down on sugar granules on the outside (the photos, however, are of cookies made with sugar on the outside).

Finally, these took longer to cook than the recipe said.  I wasn't using insulated sheets or anything, but I guess you might want to check on these cookies in their final moments in the oven in case yours don't take as long.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

7 TB light natural cane sugar
1 TB dark brown sugar
1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c unbleached white flour
2 TB arrowroot or cornstarch
1 TB unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
2 scant TB canola oil
2 TB maple syrup
1 TB soymilk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/3 c nondairy chocolate chips, heaping

Preheat oven to 350* F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine sugars, flours, arrowroot/cornstarch, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Mix well.
In a separate small bowl, combine the oil, maple syrup, soymilk, and vanilla and almond extracts.  Add this mixture to the dry one and mix briefly.  Add chocolate chips and use your hands to work them into the dough.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls and flatten slightly.  Place the cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets; they spread a great deal.  Bake the cookies, for 8-11 minutes.  The cookies will look soft but set.
Set the baking sheet on a rack and cool for 3 minutes, until the cookies are firm enough to move.  Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool.  Store the cookies in a tightly covered tin or jar at room temperature for one to two days.  Make about 20 cookies.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Moroccan Carrot Salad with Harissa

Operation Use Harissa, phase....four?  I lost count.  But I put together a nice list of all the harissa recipes I've made this year:
This was a really simple recipe, but for some reason, it ended up particularly good.  I think the generous amounts of lemon juice and parsley kept it from being a soggy bowl of grated carrot.  Instead, it's zingy and refreshing (though I'd like to try adding a bit of cinnamon, too, to bring out the carrots' sweetness).  As always, I cut back on the raw garlic, too.

Moroccan Carrot Salad with Harissa
(from epicurious)

1 pound (6-8 medium) carrots, coarsely grated (about 4 cups)
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro and/or parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin or (1/2 tsp ground cumin + 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon)
1 tsp sweet paprika
pinch of salt
1 tsp harissa (Northwest African chili paste) (or 1 TB minced green chilies or 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne)

In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days to allow the flavors to meld and permeate the carrots. Served chilled or at room temperature.  Serves 4-5.

Note to self: A variation to try--Carrot-Orange Salad: Omit the cumin and add 1 1/2 tsp orange blossom water or 1/2 c fresh orange juice, 1/4 c chopped fresh spearmint, and, if desired, 1 TB sugar or honey.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Spiced Cauliflower with Sesame

In some ways, this dish is like a simpler, drier version of the Hyderabad Cauliflower I posted a few months ago.  But in some ways, it's quite different--especially the sesame seeds.

The cauliflower and the onions ended up being just tender enough without being mushy, and it's spicy without being overpoweringly so.  I do think the recipe called for too much onion in relation to cauliflower; next time I'll use one onion instead of two. It's also very gingery, which I liked, but you might want to cut back bit.

Spiced Cauliflower with Sesame Seeds

1 1/2 TB extra-virgin olive oil or clarified butter
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 or 2 medium yellow onions, finely sliced
a pinch of turmeric
fine grain sea salt
4 dried red chiles, stemmed and halved
2 tsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cm / 1 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 medium / 12 oz cauliflower, thinly sliced 
1 green jalapeno chile, seeds removed, finely chopped
3 TB chopped fresh cilantro / coriander

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the cumin seeds and cook until they begin to crackle, just 30 seconds or so. Stir in the onions, along with the turmeric and a few pinches of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions caramelize a bit and turn lightly golden, roughly 7 - 10 minutes.
2. Add the red chiles, sesame seeds, garlic, and half of the ginger. Continue to cook for another minute.
3. Add the cauliflower and stir well. At this point I added a generous splash of water to help the cauliflower to steam.  Cover the pan and cook the cauliflower over low-medium heat for 3 - 5 minutes, until just tender. 
4. When the cauliflower is nearly cooked, remove the lid, increase the heat, and stir in the green chiles, remaining ginger, and cilantro. Salt to taste.  Serves about 3-4.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Georgian Cilantro Sauce

It's a pesto!  It's a chutney!  No, it's a sauce! 

It's amazing. 

Apparently it's traditionally eaten with grilled meats.  But that didn't stop Amey at vegan treats and eats from eating it on red kidney beans.  So far I've put it on bulghur, on chickpeas, on pizza, and on pasta, and I'm thinking it might go on everything except ice cream.  It's savory and tangy and slightly spicy all at once.  I brought it to a make-your-own-pizza party this weekend and it served so so well in the place of pizza sauce.  I think that next I will put it on a tofu scramble.

I made a few changes: I used olive instead of walnut oil, and I went easy on the raw garlic.  I know it's good for you but it always makes my mouth feel funny, thirsty.  I also skipped the mixed basil-dill-tarragon (Jon's was out of basil - wtf?!).   I think that next time I'll also throw in some mint; some recipes for this type of sauce do call for mint, and it seems intuitive anyway, given the chutney connection.

Oh, and another reason why my grocery store is cooler than yours:
It is one pound of dried apricot paste.  It was $2.99. 


Georgian Cilantro Sauce

2 oz dried apricots
1 c boiling water
1/3 c shelled walnut
2 garlic cloves (or more to taste), minced
1/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt (more to taste)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne
2 c cilantro leaves (2 good-size bunches), coarsely chopped
1 1/2 c parsley leaves (1 1/2 bunches), coarsely chopped
note to self: add some mint next time
5 TB olive oil
1/2 cup soaking water from the apricots, as needed 

1. Place the dried apricots in a bowl and pour on the boiling water. Let sit for at least an hour, more if possible, even overnight. Drain over a measuring cup and retain 1/2 cup of the soaking water.
2. In a blender, chop walnuts and garlic.  Add the drained apricots, the lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne to the bowl, and process to a puree. Add the cilantro and other chopped herbs, and puree, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides several times. Combine the walnut oil and soaking water from the apricots, and gradually add it to the puree. Process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, and let sit for one hour. Taste and adjust salt. Makes at least 1 1/2 c.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Applesauce Cookies

I had applesauce; I wanted cookies.  I went off this recipe for Applesauce Cookies from "best-ever-cookie-collection.com"; these were definitely not the best cookies ever.  The photos I took were atrocious, so we're going to skip right to the meat of the matter: as with every pumpkin or applesauce cookie recipe (except maybe these, which consciously correct for the problem), these just ended up tasting too healthy/cakey, especially given how much butter was in them.  Alas.  These cookies were at least a bit crisp on the outside, but the inside was like a muffin.  The taste was pleasant but unspectacular.  My search for a great apple-pie-tasting cookie continues.

Applesauce Cookies

1 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c vegan butter, softened
1 c packed brown sugar
1 TB ground flaxseed mixed with 3 TB water
1/2 c applesauce

1. Preheat your oven to 375*. Line cookies with parchment paper. Alternatively, use ungreased cookie sheets to bake your cookies.
2. In a medium size bowl whisk the flours, spices, baking soda, and salt until well blended and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.
4. Beat in the egg and applesauce then stir in the flour mixture until just combined.
5. Drop cookie dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until no indentation remains when touched and light golden brown around the edges, about 10 to 12 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack with a spatula.
7. Ice cookies if desired.  This recipe yields about 4 dozen cookies.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Best of (thus far)

That side bar on the blog is getting a bit unwieldy, so I thought it might be helpful for me to sift out some of my very favorite recipes I've made in the past 14 months. I've been thinking quite a bit about how this list and this blog don't exactly reflect the way that I eat: for one, it seems as if I eat a disproportionate amount of cookies, but this is because your cookies always need a recipe, while your random last-minute healthy stir fry probably doesn't. And, a lot of my favorite foods--hummus, roasted greens, stir-fried tempeh--barely require recipes. Still, having put together the following list, I'm pretty excited to share it with you.

The Asian Squash-Pear Soup with Mushrooms from Veganomicon is one of the most perfect soups ever: sweet, savory, creamy, chunky...it's got it all. Also, my mom and her boyfriend made it on their first date! Hema Parekh's Chili Eggplants with Fresh Basil is also really rich and delicious, and Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh or Tofu is probably the best marinated tofu/tempeh recipe I've ever tried. Tangy Tahini Noodles with Tempeh and Vegetables came about as an accident, but the combination of flavors can't be beaten.

The recipe for Baingan Bharta in Indian Home Cooking is one of the top five things I've ever made (you may remember, it's the thing that was so good it made me want to cry). Another standby is some version of Chana Masala, although I haven't yet blogged about the really really amazing recipe in The Asian Vegan Kitchen. Suvir Saran's Dal with Ginger and Lime is the best dal recipe around, and Matar Tofu Paneer Dal, while not remotely "authentic," is incredibly satisfying, both in flavor and texture. Most recently, Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Coconut have rocked my world.

Despite my love of middle eastern cooking, I don't have too many recipes to share; I think this is because I stick to really simple foods like hummus, baba ganoush, and tabouleh. Still, Robin Robertson's Chickpea and Green Bean Tagine is complex and comforting, and her Turkish-Style Stuffed Eggplant with Walnut Sauce is the perfect thing to serve for a dinner party. That Walnut Sauce deserves a shout-out all of its own, it's so good. Somewhat similar to the walnut sauce is Mouhammara; I tried several recipes, and this is my favorite.

I don't make as much "European" food, but there are a few things here that I really love. The Stir-Fried Cabbage and Mushrooms was amazing, although now those Indian-style brussels sprouts are competing with it for best cabbage recipe ever. Stuffed Mushrooms, Walnut- and Mushroom-Stuffed Tomatoes, and Mushroom-Cashew Pies all have similar stuffings, and they're all amazing. Since making the Sausagey Shepherd's Pie with Mushroom Gravy, I've realized it's not actually a shepherd's pie, but it's still really fun and delicious. Again, that Mushroom Gravy is worth mentioning on its own; it goes great on anything. Finally, my version of Robin Robertson's Mediterranean Bean and Sausage Ragout is a complex, interesting, and comforting one-dish meal that I will make again and again.

A great portion of the food I make might fall under the category of "Vaguely East-Asian/Macrobiotic/Wacky American Vegan Comfort Food." It's in this category, too, that my friends/cooking soulmates Myer and Arhia specialize. I've found the Tofu Scramble to be with me for the rest of my days, and the versatile Macro-Southern Fusion Casserole, originally from 3 Bowls, is a wonderful staple to have up your sleeve. Marinated Tofu, too, is simple and yet goes with everything. Finally, two sauces here are of immense importance: Myer and Arhia's Macro Crack (aka Tahini-Tamari Sauce) is a deceptively simple food that brings out the best in many things (pasta, veggies, much more). And its cousin, Miso-Tahini Sauce, never fails to disappoint, either. I particularly love this latter sauce on Roasted Greens.

Indeed, some of the best dishes are the nearly-recipeless ones that just allow vegetables to be their delicious selves. The Green Bean Guacamole Salad was particularly (and surprisingly) amazing this summer, as was the Watermelon Tomato Salad with Basil and Cashew Cheese.

That Cashew Goat Cheese is also really great for entertaining; use it as a spread for crackers. Also good for parties are the Savory Sesame-Herb Shortbread Cookies, though they're so rich (yum) that you would not want to put cashew cheese on them, too.

I'm not really into sweet drinks (I'd rather have cookies), but the recipe for Fizzy Ginger Ale that I made with Julia K was really perfect, except for the carbonated explosion it caused. Proceed with extreme caution.

It's particularly hard to choose favorite cookie recipes; there are so many! The following, though, are among those I keep coming back to. Chocolate Chip Cardamom Cookies add a sophisticated spin to the classic without detracting from what made it good in the first place. They're slightly chewy and caramelly, with lots of flavor. Fat Mints are incredibly rich and chocolatey, with chocolate chips as well as cocoa. Ginger Cookies, possibly the first recipe I ever veganized, are chewy and spicy. Lemon Sesame Cookies are elegant and interesting. Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles burst with spicy flavor and have a great texture. Pistachio-Cardamom Shortbread Cookies, with or without rosewater, are beautiful to look at and are rich yet sophisticated. Sell Your Soul Pumpkin Cookies are the best pumpkin cookies I've ever had.

A few more sweets: my friend Arhia's Cardamom Chocolate Chip Muffins are probably the most perfect muffin ever made, and I really really love my spicy, orangey Sattre Pumpkin Bread, which originated as a family recipe, though it's been much tweaked.