Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tiny Roasted Peppers

Last time I was at Whole Foods I was tempted to pick up a bag of tiny sweet bell peppers. They come in shades ranging from yellow to red and are no more than an inch or two in length (and girth.) I had lofty paella plans, but ended up using them as a lovely snack. They become sweet and delectable when roasted.

You don't need olive oil or any fancy seasoning. Just place some peppers in one layer on a baking sheet and pop into a 350-degree oven for about 10-15 minutes. They are ready when they are soft and sport a few dark scorched spots.

Some folks place them, piping hot, into a plastic bag, and let them steam, and then peel them. I don't think that's necessary to enjoy them - they're good as they are.

You can put a tiny bit of filling in each one after they're finished: tofu "cheese" or faux gras, but that's unnecessary. They really are delicious as they are.

Pack them in a little box and take them to work as an afternoon snack, and don't forget to share them with friends!

Here are a bunch of other suggestions, all of which can easily be veganized by substituting the cheese they suggest with nut cheeses and vegan parmesan.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Arroz Verde

Chad's martial arts sensei, Miyako Tanaka, was a very special and distinctive woman. Her proficiency in Naginata, a Japanese spear art originally practiced by women, brought her to the United States, and here she established an excellent dojo and an entire generations of students who adored and respected her. She was a fierce woman, and at the same time, a kind one, with an abiding love for Japanese tradition, a quiet sense of humor, and innate nobility.

We lost Tanaka Sensei a few years ago and we miss her very much. One of the many ways in which we remember her is by cooking Sukoyaka Genmai, which is a short-grain, lightly milled brown rice she favored. She is the one who told us about it, saying it was "the very best brown rice," and, indeed, it is delicious! I like eating it simply steamed in water, but today I made a special version that enriches it with fiber and nutrients from lovely greens. This is a slightly healthier version of the classic Mexican arroz verde, and you can serve it with a bean or lentil dish or with tortillas.

2 cups kale, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper
2 garlic cloves
2 cups short-grain brown rice
water or vegetable broth (2.5 cups if cooking in a pressure cooker, 4 cups for stovetop cooking)
juice from 2 lemons
salt to taste

Place the kale, parsley, cilantro, jalapeño, and garlic in a food processor and process until very finely chopped.
Transfer the green mixture to a pot or a pressure cooker, add rice and water, mix well, and cook rice until tender.
Fluff rice with fork, add lemon juice and salt and fluff again.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Frijoladillas: Vegan Quesadillas

Non-vegan quesadilla purists might scoff at this recipe, which has no cheese and no pretense to cheesiness (save for, perhaps, the nutritional yeast, but it enhances the flavor, rather than makes it cheeselike.) I'm sure it's possible to make a fine quesadilla from Chao Slices or similar products, but the goal here was to make something satisfying and very nutritious. The filling they include in the recipe goes a long way. I simplified it a bit, and found that additional tomatoes were not necessary; they would water the consistency too much. As it is, it comes out tasting somewhere between a quesadilla and a pupusa de frijoles. Good stuff.

Part I: Filling

1 can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup Pomi or similar tomato product
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup black beans

mix all ingredients save for the black beans in the food processor. Then, add the black beans and mix with a spoon.

Part II: Assembly

corn tortillas

Heat up a pan (I did not use oil). Place a tortilla on the pan, a generous spoonful of the mix from Part I in the middle, and another tortilla on top. Cook for a few moments on each side, until the filling is hot and the tortilla has a magical, between-fluffy-and-crunchy texture. Serve hot on a generous bed of greens.

BONUS! The filling of the frijoladillas makes for a terrific soup base. Just add black beans and vegetables - I used kale, carrots, tomatoes, onion and garlic - and cook together for a delicious black bean soup.

Warming Stir Fry with Sprouted Lentils

It's that time of year! Evil flu strains that have managed to escape the clutches of the flu shot are invading our immune system and making us feel lousy. To help a beloved afflicted person, I made this for lunch. It's warming and nutritious, and yet light, so as not to encumber a system already busy fighting viruses. The innovation here is that, in lieu of a cooked grain or bean, I'm just very lightly warming sprouted lentils. It keeps them fresh and springy to the taste.

The day before making this dish, you'll have to sprout the lentils, which is very easy - simply place a cup and a half or so of lentils in a bowl and cover with fresh water. Change the water after a few hours, and then change it again in the morning. You'll even see little tails beginning to form! Drain the sprouted lentils and set aside.

Now, to the main show:

3 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 inch ginger, minced
1 cup water + 1 tbsp veggie bouillon or dried vegetable powder or 1 cup vegetable broth
1 large carrot or two or three small ones, cut into thin rings
5 large shiitake mushrooms, sliced (if using dried ones, soak them in some warm water before cooking)
3 cups of green vegetables (I used about 8 heads of baby bok choy and about four leaves of dino kale)
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ginger powder
1-2 tbsp soy sauce
2-3 cups lentil sprouts

Place garlic and ginger in a wok and add about 3 tablespoons of the broth. Turn on the heat and swish around, until the garlic and ginger are aromatic. Then, add the carrots, and cook for another couple of minutes, adding 1-2 more tablespoons of the broth. Then, add the mushrooms and continue cooking; add about half of the soy sauce. Add the greens and cook for about 5-6 minutes, adding broth whenever the bottom of the wok dries up and stirring as you go. When the greens begin to wilt, add the tomatoes, cumin, ginger, and continue cooking a couple of minutes until the tomatoes soften. Finally, add the sprouts and the remainder of the broth and the soy sauce. Stir-fry everything together for a few minutes, until the sprouts are warm, but before they become mushy. Serve warm.

Note: I didn't serve this with a side of tahini, but I bet it would be a blast.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Book Recommendation: Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen

Indian food! Delicious, complex, labor intensive... I adore it. Indian restaurants are among the few I still frequent, because it is difficult to replicate the textures and tastes at home. But Richa Hingle's wonderful book and its companion website are true game changers.

With crystal-clear, detailed explanations, careful seasoning, and creative ingredient list, Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen is an invaluable contribution to our cookbook shelf. It occupies the necessary gap between vanity vegan books, which show pretty but unrealistic concoctions, and basic vegan books, with recipes I already know how to make.

Yesterday we made two of her recipes - palak paneer, which features homemade almond paneer in a rich spinach sauce, and malai kofta, in which the lovely dumpling balls are made of cabbage, cashew, and chickpea flour and cooked in savory tomato sauce. What an incredible meal! Making the paneer and the kofta is very labor intensive, but also intriguing, and the result is impeccable in taste and texture.

Geared toward folks who are not proficient in traditional Indian cooking, and yet not oversimplified, the book empowers us to venture beyond our comfort zone and dare to cook authentic meals with authentic spices. I highly recommend it!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Lentil Pâté - Faux Gras

 Ahoy there! I have a new version of vegan pâté that will knock your socks off. It is packed with protein and has no added oils beyond what's in the walnuts and lentils. Most importantly, it's delicious with fresh vegetables for a nice snack. We served it for holiday dinner and our guest christened it as "faux gras", and so it shall henceforth be known!

2 cups lentils
1 cup walnuts
6 large mushrooms, crimini or similar
1 yellow onion
about 1/3 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp Kala Namak salt, or to taste

Soak lentils overnight until they soften - it'll improve the nutritional content of the dish. The next day, cover with water and cook until soft.

While the lentils are cooking, slice the onion thinly and cut mushrooms into little pieces. place two pans on the stove. In one of them, dry roast the walnuts for about 10 minutes, until they develop deep brown spots. In the other, place about 1 tbsp of vegetable broth and saute the onions for about 10 minutes or until translucent and brownish. Add more broth to prevent sticking to the pan. When onions are soft, add mushrooms and continue cooking until the onion is an appealing shade of brown. Place walnuts and onion-mushroom mixture in food processor and pulse-process until smooth. Add the lentils and pulse until everything is mixed to your desired consistency. Add tomato paste, cumin, and Kala Namak salt to taste and pulse until everything is to your taste. Serve with wedges and sticks of  vegetables, like cucumbers, radishes, carrots, celery sticks, or bell peppers, or use as an unusual and delicious sandwich filling.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Thoughts about Green Smoothies

When I visited my friend Yael in Israel, she made us a green smoothie in an effort to recreate something delicious she'd had at a joint called rebar. It was very tasty and very green, and also, I thought, better than the original.

I like drinking smoothies in the morning, and come up with all kinds of awesome recipes for them, but last night's correspondence with my friend Tzili Paz-Wolk, who has amazing and awesome knowledge about food, made me think about it. Tzili's approach to nutrition is very compassionate and intuitive, and she pushes me to figure out my deep needs and how my food choices address them (effectively or less so). One thing she pointed out yesterday was that my shakes tend to rely on ready-made plant milks, like soy and almond. And she's right: making almond milk from scratch is very easy, especially with my mighty Vitamix, but I seldom do it. The reason for that is that the ready-made stuff is already fortified with vitamins, especially B12, which I always worry about (even though I supplement almost daily with a sublingual spray.) Also, I tend to prefer soymilk or artificially boosted protein milks because I worry that a breakfast with insufficient protein won't sustain me for the rest of my day.

So this morning I'm doing an experiment: I'm having a shake based only on unprocessed ingredients (well, processed in my own blender). The ingredients are:

1/3 of a large cucumber (one Persian cucumber's worth)
2 large celery stalks
handful of cilantro
1 cup spinach leaves
1/4 cup cashews
1 tangerine
1 pear

It's much less sweet than what I'm used to, but that can be cured with a banana or some berries next time. The flavor is fresh and tasty. Maybe I'll make it a point to greenify my shakes more than I have before. Look, even Inti seems to dig it (and took a few sips!)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

_____ of Broccoli Soup

I'm a fairly moderate fan of cream of broccoli soup, but being under the weather today I decided to make a lighter version, with no plant milk or tofu. This one is pureed (hence the creaminess) but includes only vegetables and a few chickpeas. It's a slight variation on the Forks Over Knives recipe.

4 cups broccoli, stems and florets
1/2 cup chickpeas, cooked
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 onion, diced
3 celery stalks, sliced
1/3 a big sweet potato, diced
1 tsp garlic powder
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup hot water
juice from 1 lemon

Separate broccoli stems from florets. Place onion, carrots, celery, sweet potato, and garlic in a pot and add a splash of the vegetable broth. Saute until onion is translucent. Then, add the rest of the broth and the water, lower the heat, and cook for 10 mins.

Add the florets and the chickpeas and cook for another 15 mins, or until the florets are very soft.

Scoop out the solids in batches and puree in the blender with some of the liquid. Return to the pot. Add a bit of hot water if necessary for a soupier consistency. Drizzle the lemon juice in.