Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Vegan Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese somehow tasted best in Israel. As kids, we all grew up eating it for breakfast, on a slice of simple bread or with an omelette, or for dinner with some vegetables on the side. To this day, few meals are as Israeli to me as some cottage cheese with a sliced tomato. Thanks to the one and only Noa Shalev and her amazing vegan cheese course (which you absolutely must take), we now have fresh cottage cheese at home, made from tofu and a few other ingredients! Preparation can be very simple or multi-step, depending on whether you rely on homemade yogurt and mayo or purchased ones, but since I always have a batch of homemade yogurt and had Hampton Creek's Just Mayo in the fridge, it was a cinch. This works best with pink Himalayan salt and a touch of lemon juice.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Buddha Bowls

Are buddha bowls all the rage now or have they gone out of fashion? I have no idea, but I do see articles about them all over the place. The nice thing about them is that they constitute a varied, colorful, tasty lunch, made of ingredients that are easy to eat as they are or cook quickly and simply. Moreover, if you keep a bunch of toppings in the fridge, it's easy to mix things up during the week and make variations on the theme.

In the photo you see our toppings from this afternoon: in the left plate, a simple tomato-basil salad, chopped cucumbers and radishes, sliced avocado, and two kinds of pickles--beets and root kimchi. In the right plate, simply baked potatoes and sweet potatoes (which I then cubed and stored in the fridge), zucchini slices and snap peas (which I lightly stir-fried on a dry pan with some garlic powder until the zucchini slices became pleasantly charred) and a bunch of chard that I chopped up and cooked up for five minutes with juice from one lemon.

Add to that some cooked quinoa and some tofu bacon or baked chickpeas and you're in business. It occurs to me that this is an excellent hosting dish, too--just hand people bowls (maybe with the quinoa already layered at the bottom) and ask them to help themselves to whatever toppings they choose.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Shavuot

Check out our awesome Shavuot table! We just finished hosting our Shavuot party, which is apparently not a huge deal in the United States. I suspect there are two reasons: its lack of proximity to a heavily commercialized Christian holiday (this, after all, is how Hanukkah became such a big deal) and its strong ties to the land (it's a harvest holiday.) In kibbutzim and moshavim there's often a nice parade of first fruits of the year (including the babies born that year) and elsewhere in the country people celebrate with a dairy meal. Why dairy? Apparently, the word חלב״ chalav" (milk), in Jewish numerology, adds up to 40, and Moses was on Mount Sinai 40 days.

I took the challenge seriously and put together a holiday party for our friends featuring a whole array of vegan cheeses, which I learned how to make in Noa Shalev's awesome vegan cheese course (you should take it, so cough up the 350 NIS and do it.) A lot of improvisation went into this - my cheese flavors are original inventions, save for the spirulina one, and my raw cashew cheesecakes are variations on the lemon-lavender cake I made a couple of weeks ago following Noa's recipe. This time I made mango-basil cake and strawberry-thyme cake. All I did was replace the flavoring. I glanced at one of my new books, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, to match fruit and herbs, but I find that I already have a pretty good gut feeling about combinations.

Anyway, from bottom to top: green salad with avocado, nectarines, and strawberries, dressed in quince vinegar from Nan at Vermont Quince; spiralized salad of cucumber, carrot, beet, and radish, dressed in a mix of good mustard and Nan's quince salsa; cauliflower ceviche; "chevre" cheeseballs flavored with nigella, chimichurri, za'atar, zchug, and ras-el-hanout; leek-mushroom quiche with chickpea base; vegan lasagna with tofu ricotta: four hard cheeses, flavored with spirulina, turmeric-cumin, miso, and garlic-zchug; breads and crackers; and the aforementioned raw cakes.

A good time was had by all!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mystery Cookies from the Internet: Chickpea-Peanut Butter

Pic courtesy Popsugar
I was lurking idly on Facebook, as one does, when a friend posted this recipe. I immediately hopped off the sofa, hollering "I have these ingredients!" and ran to make a batch of cookies. The nice thing about this recipe is that it is mostly good for you: chickpeas and peanut butter are the basis for the cookie, and it is fairly minimally sweetened. You could decrease the sugar content even further by opting for cocoa nibs and reducing the maple syrup.

I made a few improvements to the original recipe, including an increase of the baking time. They came out fluffy and fantastic.

1 cup chickpeas
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tsp maple syrup (to taste)
1 tsp orange zest
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar, broken into little pieces

Heat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Mix first five ingredients in food processor until creamy. Add dark chocolate and stir until combined. With damp palms, shape little balls and flatten them on cookie sheet. Bake for about 15-20 mins (original recipe says 10, but they were not nearly done by then.) They're still a bit pliable when you get them out and they harden as they cool. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fresh Salad with Green Beans, Chickpeas, and Macadamia Cheeses

This salad turned out wonderful thanks to its high-quality components: mixed supergreens, pea shoots, cucumber, radish, chickpeas, lightly steamed green beans, and some of the macadamia cheese from a few days ago. Simply dressed with a few drops of balsamic vinegar, it tasted like something you'd expect to find at a French bistro.

Enjoy!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rosewater-Cherry Mini-Pie

The successful cakes from Thursday made me want to try a new recipe along the same lines. When I lived in Jerusalem, I had two favorite desserts: Sahleb, a hot pudding made of starches and plants with a coconut-pistachio topping, and Malabi, a cold custard with a red rosewater syrup on top. There was a small place near a car repair shop, in the industrial part of town, and it was open throughout the night; when we were cramming for exams, we used to go there and meet other night creatures: construction workers, auto industry workers, bakers, and everyone else who felt like a comforting dessert in the middle of the night.

This is a healthier, nut-based version of a rosewater pudding. Unless you enjoy a slightly alcoholic taste in your cakes, opt for rosewater made only of distilled water and rose petals.

Crust
5 pitted dates
1/3 cup walnuts, soaked for 10 mins in boiling water

Filling
1/2 cup cashews, soaked for 10 mins in boiling water
1/2 cup pine nuts, soaked for 10 mins in boiling water
1-2 tsp maple syrup
juice from 1/2 orange
2 tbsp rosewater
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup Earth Balance

Topping

15 cherries, pitted and chopped
splash of rosewater
splash of whiskey

For the crust and filling, follow the instructions in the lemon-lavender cake recipe

While the cake is in the molding ring cooling in the freezer, cook the cherries in rosewater and whiskey until fragrant and a bit soft. Let topping cool a bit, then layer on top of the cake and place everything in the fridge until it's time to serve.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Citrus-Lavender Raw Mini-Pies

Amidst the dramatic national news, what are ordinary people to do? Host friends from out of town and cook vegan food, of course! Our friend Adi stayed with us for a few days, and I decided to treat him to a special breakfast pie. Imagine my joy when the one and only Noa Shalev, whose vegan cheese course you absolutely must take, emailed us an amazing gift for Shavuot--an e-book full of festive special recipes, which she graciously allowed us to share.

I wanted to make one of the pies, but I didn't have all the ingredients on hand, so I improvised. The outcome was stunningly delicious, not too sweet, and fragrant with herbal aroma. You'll find Noa's recipes in the booklet; mine follow. My recipe makes two small (2.5''-3'') pies. You'll need two round dessert rings or large cookie cutters (I use the same ones I use for my cheeses.)

Crust
5 pitted dates
1/3 cup almonds, soaked for 10 mins in boiling water

Filling
1/2 cup cashews, soaked for 10 mins in boiling water
1/2 cup pine nuts, soaked for 10 mins in boiling water
1-2 tsp maple syrup
juice from 1/2 orange
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup Earth Balance
3 drops lavender essential oil
2 lavender tips

Place dates and almonds in food processor and process until sticky and coarsely chopped. Place both dessert rings on a plate and squeeze half of the mix into each dessert ring, using your fingers to compress the crust at the bottom of each ring. Place plate with rings and crust on it in freezer.

Then, drain cashews and pine nuts and place in blender with all other ingredients. Blend until creamy and smooth. Take plate with rings and crusts out of the fridge and pour cashew/pine nut mixture into the rings, on top of the crusts (you might need a spatula to get all the goodness out of the blender.) Return plate to freezer for about half an hour, or until top solidifies but is not yet frozen.

Shortly before serving, garnish each mini-pie with lavender tip. If you like, serve with a nice fruit salad (I add chopped lavender and mint to my fruit - good stuff.)