Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Mushrooms Stuffed with Polenta and Pesto

This odd photo depicts my contribution to our upcoming choir potluck: large-sized crimini mushrooms stuffed with creamy polenta and topped with sundried tomato and walnut pesto. They are in the fridge now and I plan to grill them shortly before heading out there.

Making these babies was a multistep process, but it was very worthwhile. The first thing to do is obtain 20 mid-sized crimini mushrooms, separate the mushroom caps from the stems, and marinate the former in some diluted soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos. Then, move on to Step Two, which is:

The Making of the Pesto

This pesto recipe comes from Psalm Lewis's wonderful vegan protein workshop. It tastes surprisingly flavorful and pesto-ey, despite having very different ingredients than the original. You'll need:

1 little jar of sundried tomatoes
1 medium-sized tomato
1/2 cup walnuts
the mushroom stems from Part I
1 date
handful of basil leaves
spooonful of chopped garlic (3-4 cloves)
a drizzle of olive oil (I use the oil that the tomatoes come packed in)
salt, and zest from one lemon

Mix all ingredients in a food processor, save for the salt and zest, by pulsing until they become a chunky paste. Add salt and zest and combine. Set aside, and move to Step Three, which is:

The making of the Polenta 

For this, you'll need:

1/2 cup cornmeal
2 cups water
1 spoonful vegan butter
1 spoonful of the pesto you made in Step Two
a bit of salt

Follow the instructions for kalenta, except with no kale, and add our special pesto in lieu of the regular one. Then move on to Step Four, which is:

The Stuffing and Refrigerating of the Mushrooms

Place mushrooms on baking sheet that can fit in your fridge. Spoon polenta into each mushroom to completely fill the hole, then spoon a bit of the pesto on top (you'll be left with some polenta and pesto, and that's not a bad thing at all.) After a period of refrigeration, the polenta will harden and the mushrooms will travel better wherever you're taking them. Which brings us to Step Five, which is:

The Grilling of the Mushrooms

Place them under the grill for 5-10 mins, or as desired, or just bake in a 350-degree oven until the mushrooms feel cooked but still solid.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Pasta Bake

Today's the day we get our fresh vegetables from Albert and Eve, and before the shipment arrives I try to make something fabulous to use the leftovers. This time I had a package of chard and four zucchinis, so here's what happened:

5 cups dry short pasta (ziti, elbows, etc.--I used brown rice elbows and lentil spirals)
1 tbsp olive oil
5 garlic cloves, chopped
4 zucchini
1 package of chard
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes or Pomi
1 heaping tbsp dry oregano
6 basil leaves
2 big handfuls cashews
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 more garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp vegan mozarella (I use Miyoko's)
salt and pepper to taste

Boil water in a big pot and cook the pasta until al dente. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Meanwhile, in a big wok, heat up olive oil and sautee garlic. Cube zucchini and add, sauteeing for three or four more minutes. Meanwhile, cut chard into little pieces. Add chard, tomato, oregano, and basil, and cook until soft.
In a blender, place cashews, almond milk, nutritional yeast, garlic cloves, and vegan mozarella. Blend until creamy.
Drain pasta and mix with vegetables. Add white sauce and mix well to coat. Pour into two baking pans (for quiche or pie) and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top is a bit crispy.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spiralized Zucchini Pasta with Tomato-Walnut Pesto

The day after Passover is always a good reason to eat something light, and by "light" I don't mean anything that includes matzot (which, with their dryness and sharp edges, land Jews worldwide in hospitals during the holiday.) If you are of the kosher-for-Pesach persuasion (I'm not, but by all means, enjoy), of if you're gluten free or paleo (I'm not, but whatever makes you happy) this recipe includes no grains or beans, only vegetables and nuts. If you're of the raw persuasion (I'm not, but by all means, you do you), everything here is raw. And if you just like tasty food (I do, and so do you), this here thing is delicious. Think about it as a weird and unusual way to eat your salad.

This one calls for two pieces of special equipment: a food processor and a spiralizer. Even if the latter appears a frivolous appliance, it's not an expensive one, and it's not enormous, which means you can easily stash it in your kitchen cabinet until your cuisine takes an architectural turn. I use this one.

Two servings:

4 medium-to-large zucchini
4 roma tomatoes
two big handfuls of walnuts
6 garlic cloves
10 basil leaves
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
1 date
a sprinkle of salt or Bragg's Liquid Aminos
a generous splash of olive oil

Chop of ends of zucchini and attach them to the spiralizer, using the blade that produces the narrowest spirals. Carefully spiral all four. Discard zucchini centers (they will be left over) or save for soup.

Place all other ingredients, except for the salt/Bragg's and the olive oil, in the food processor, and pulse until it almost reaches desired consistency. Add salt/Bragg's and oil and pulse twice more. Generously spoon atop noodles and eat to your heart's content.

P.S. Zucchini noodles can also be stir-fried with whatever cooked sauce you have for a warm dish.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Soy Ice Green Tea

There's a newish joint in town: Boba Guys, on 19th near Valencia. It has become one of my favorite treats, because its list of ingredients is so different from the usual awful ingredients in boba tea. They don't use awful powders--they have high-quality milks--and they use high-quality teas. Moreover, you can order your tea unsweetened, which is a refreshing and excellent change!

The tapioca balls I could take or leave, so I decided to make myself a homemade version of the tea. It's very simple: put high-quality green tea (jasmine green is particularly tasty) in a bag or steeper, steep in a small amount of water until you get very concentrated tea, then mix with cold soymilk. Delicious.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Leftover Reincarnation: Chinese Takeout with Kale, Mushrooms, and Kelp Noodles

Cooking at home is usually cheaper, tastier, and more satisfying than ordering in, but we're all human, and sometimes after a tiring week the last thing you want to do is make something from scratch. Yesterday we tucked into some Chinese takeout that included braised tofu in a light sauce. This morning's brunch made use of the leftover tofu with some fresh ingredients, and it was delicious! Do this with whatever Chinese takeout leftovers you have, though tofu dishes work really well.

1/3-1/2 container leftover braised tofu, málà dòufu, or other Chinese takeout dish
1 tsp sesame oil
1 package fresh red kale
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
5 white mushrooms, sliced
1-inch cube of ginger, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 splash Bragg's Liquid Aminos
1 tsp Sriracha
1/2 tsp Ultimate Umami Spice
1 package kelp noodles

Take kelp noodles out of the package and soak in some warm water with the shiitakes. Meanwhile, heat up the sesame oil in a pan or wok and add chopped garlic, ginger, and sliced white mushrooms. Sprinkle umami spice on top. After a couple of minutes, retrieve shiitakes from broth, slice, and add to pan. Let that sautee a minute, and then add your leftovers. After the leftovers are heated through and mixed with the aromatics, add the kale, Bragg's, and sriracha. Cook until kale wilts, then drain kelp noodles (reserve a bit of the liquid) and add them to the pan. Stir-fry with the noodles until the kelp reaches the desired consistency (some folks like it with a bit of crunch, some folks like it thoroughly softened). Use some of the shiitake soaking broth if you need a bit more moisture in the pan. Serve hot.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Quince Galore!

One of the happy consequences of a recent business trip was that I got to meet Nan Stefanik, a friend from an online community, in person. We had a delightful visit together, and toward its end Nan very generously regaled me with several products from her fantastic business, Vermont Quince.

For those of you unfamiliar with quince, it is a fruit that grows similarly to apples and pears. It is tough and spongy and cannot be eaten raw, but when cooked it is fragrant and delicious. My grandma used to make quince compote, but I haven't seen it anywhere else, so this was a delightful discovery.

Among the creative products Nan gifted me were quince vinegar, quince mustard, quince salsa, quince paste, and two types of preserves - jelly and quince-rose preserves. All of those are delicious. I've used the vinegar on salads, the salsa to marinate baked tofu (mixed with Bragg's Liquid Aminos), and the preserves on oatmeal.

On the left is a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal topped with strawberries, nuts, coconut, sunflower seeds, and little slivers of quince paste. It's absolutely delicious.

Thank you, Nan!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ethiopian Feast

I love, love, love Ethiopian food! I was introduced to it in the early 1990s, when my aunt Michal, a social worker, flew out to Addis Ababa to bring Ethiopian Jews safely to Israel in Operation Solomon. After the newcomers settled in their new home, my aunt continued to work with the community. She was among the first non-Ethiopian Israelis to speak fluent Amharic, and she made plenty of friends in the community. Because of that, we ended up invited to lots of feasts and weddings, and after suspiciously eyeing the injera, I tried a bite or two.

Or a hundred. It was so good!

Several wonderful Ethiopian-Israeli restaurateurs, including my friend Imanuel from military service, opened Ethiopian restaurants all over the country, and I loved eating there. My favorite was Habash. I was so happy, upon moving to the Bay Area, to find two of my favorite eateries: Cafe Colucci in Oakland and Cafe Ethiopia here in the Mission District. But as of today, if you fancy some vegan Ethiopian delicacies, venture no farther than Casa Corazones, because I just cooked my first Ethiopian feast!

Clockwise, from top left:

  • ye'atakilt alicha (stewed cabbage, potatoes, and carrots in mild sauce)
  • ye'misser wot be'ingudai (lentils with mushrooms in spicy sauce)
  • kale and vegetable salad
  • gomen be'telba (greens in toasted flax seed sauce.)

Really, really, REALLY good.

I hesitate to reproduce the full recipes, because I would much rather you went and bought Teff Love, the fabulous cookbook where I got them with lots of tips and good information. The book is super authentic in that it walks you, step-by-step, through toasting and grinding your own Ethiopian spices and sauce bases. They are complex and exotic to taste, but made of surprisingly common ingredients I already had in my kitchen. Happily, my friend Dena is here on a visit and brought me berbere spice, but you can make your own. I did toast and grind my own flax seeds, as well as made my own flavored oil and also ye'wot qimen, a black-pepper and warming spices blend. Here's the recipe for the spice blend:

1 teaspoon oil
3 tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tbsp whole nigella seeds
1/2 tsp husked green cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Heat oil in small skillet and add all ingredients except the cinnamon and nutmeg. Toast and stir for a few minutes until fragrant. Remove from heat, mix with cinnamon and nutmeg, and let rest in a cool plate. Once cool, process to a fine powder in an electric grinder. Stor in a jar for up to 4 weeks.