Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Independence Day Grill: The Alternative Burger

The Israel-dwellers among my gentle readers are probably still contemplating their bellies in pain and reflecting on the gorging fest they may have taken part in lately, otherwise known as "the Yom Ha'atzmaut Mangal". We discussed this interesting anthropological phenomenon last year. And, without fail, the woods were thick with meaty smoke this year, too.

We were invited to a barbecue (=mangal) at the home of dear friends, and in lieu of vegetable skewers I decided to bring something else. A short search on google for vegan patties yielded all sorts of things, but none of the versions really captured the spirit of the holiday. Since this is Israel, I wanted the patties to have a bit of falafel aroma, which you can obtain using cumin and turmeric and paprika; also, the patties have a mix of lentils and chickpeas. I use oat bran to bond them together. They held nicely on the grill and were all eaten immediately (by us and by the meat eaters!). Not a morsel was left. Fortunately, my friend Ilan was around with his new camera and managed to take a picture before they disappeared.

Vegan Patties with a Hint of Falafel

3 cups green lentils
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/2-3/4 cup oat bran
5 garlic cloves
3 tbsps cumin
3 tbsps turmeric
1 tbsp paprika
big handful of parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Soak lentils and chickpeas in water; chickpeas take longer - a few hours - but lentils are happy after they're soaked for twenty minutes or so. Then, strain and cook in a big pot of water until tender. Strain again, saving about 1/2 cup of the liquid.
Place lentils and chickpeas in food processor bowl. Add 1/4 cup oat bran and process. Add water if the thing refuses to puree, and oat bran gradually until the lentil paste can be shaped into small burgers that hold their shape. Add spices and parsley and garlic and keep processing. Taste to correct - since ingredients are cooked, it'll give you a pretty good idea of what it'll taste like eventually.

Place gently on grill (preferably on a tray, though these things don't fall apart so easy), and eat with pita, tchina and vegetables.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Fast Red Tofu Uncheese

Another variation on the tofu "uncheese" theme, this time a soft reddish variety, that tastes somewhat like ricotta but with a bit of a punch. This is really good stuff. I made it to take over to our friends Shachar and Amit's house tonight, with some crackers; I had a small container of matbucha, which is basically a Moroccan salad/salsa/dip made of tomatoes, garlic and spices cooked together for a long time, sort of like jam. If you like, you can make your own matbucha, but if you don't have any and don't want to bother, you can try doing this with roasted peppers or with canned roasted tomatoes.

1 block of tofu
2 tbsps matbucha; or 2 roasted peppers, cut into pieces; or 2 tbsps canned roasted tomatoes (the Glen Muir variety I remember from the Bay Area is pretty good)
1 handful fresh parsley
2 small chili peppers
Optional: paprika; basil; black pepper.

Place in food processor; blend until smooth. Taste and season as desired.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Short Break to Honor Liviu Librescu

We take a short break from food blogging to honor the life, and sacrifice, of a wonderful man - Professor Liviu Librescu, who saved the lives of his Virginia Tech students by blocking, with his body, the entrance to the classroom, so they could escape the mass-murdering shooter by jumping out of the windows.

It was Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki (Rashi), I think, who said "make yourself a teacher, make yourself a friend". So close to National Holocaust Rememberance Day, my eyes well at stories like Librescu's, who, like Janusz Korczak, epitomizes this saying to its fullest possible meaning.

Our best teachers live with us, even after they die, because their memories and values live in our hearts. What is remembered, lives. May his memory be blessed.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Easiest way to Sprout Grains and Beans

Sprouts. They are good for you!

There's a variety of reasons why sprouts come so highly recommended by holistic nutritionists. Raw foodists refer to them as "living foods"; others refer to their high content of vitamins and phytogens. Surfing the web, you find a variety of devices and contraptions made for sprouting. Or, you have to get jars and gauzes.

Really, all you need is a collander and a bowl.

1. Rinse the beans or grains, place them in a bowl and soak them in water for a night.
2. The next day, place the beans in the collander and strain all the water out. Rinse them with fresh water; then place the collander on the bowl. Repeat this twice a day for about two or three days.
3. Hurrah! Sprouts!
Works like a charm.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Kidney Support Meal

How do you deal with exhaustion, nutrition-wise? We discussed this at home a few days ago, because we were both feeling tired from the holiday cooking/hosting/working/playing frenzy. We decided to resort to traditional Chinese nutrition principles, and eat a dish of azuki and mung beans with season greens.

As I explained somewhere else, Chinese medicine analyzes food according to its different properties (cold/warm, dry/moist, yin/yang, expansion/contraction). As with other conditions, exhaustion is a manifestation of an imbalance between the five elements - often, as a weakness in kidney energy. The kidneys, associated with the Chinese element of water, are not only responsible for reproductive functions and related to the bladder, but also govern our storage of life energy. When the kidneys are depleted, we have to build them.

Some types of beans are closely associated with the kidneys: remarkably, azuki or aduki beans and mung or mash beans. The fun thing about these small beans is their remarkable resemblance to each other in everything except color: mung beans are green, and azuki beans are deep rich burgundy, but both are small, egg-shaped, and have a little white spot.

There are many great ways to eat azuki and mung beans. This dish takes them down the spicy Middle Eastern route and mixes them with leafy greens. We ate this for dinner, and felt quite heavy later, so you may want to consider eating this for lunch.

Beans and Greens

1 cup azuki beans
1 cup mung beans
2 cups water or vegetable broth, or mix
1 tbsp olive oil
3 heaping tablespoons cumin
1 tbsp nutmeg
3 tablespoons good quality tomato paste
3 garlic cloves
1 large onion
2 dried small chilis
10 large leaves of red or white beet (in Israel, the easiest is manguld).

Place azukis and mungs in a bowl of water for a few hours. If you have no time, place them in boiling water for twenty minutes. Discard the water.

In a large wok, heat up some olive oil. Chop thinly garlic and onion and add to wok. As you fry up, add the cumin and nutmeg and mix. Make an incision in each of the chilis and add them, too. When everything is mixed and the room becomes fragrant, add the strained beans and fry for a few minutes. Then, add the water or broth and the tomato sauce, lower the heat and let cook for about 30 minutes.

Try eating the beans. Have they gone softer? If they are soft, chop up the greens and layer them on top of the beans; cover again. Cook until the beans are soft. You may have to add water as you go.

You'll have to take my word that this comes out very pretty because of the contrast in color between the azuki and the mung. We have just a little leftover, but the camera has disappeared. I hope to find it by the next time we cook, which will probably be in the not-so-distant-future!

Friday, April 06, 2007


I got a few email inquiries from US readers asking what ful was. After much botanical immersion (basically, googling "ful" and "fava bean") I struck gold. Ful is fava bean! And there are several varieties. Read all about it.

And, folks, if you have questions about terms, or measurements, or temperatures, please, please do not hesitate to ask in the comments to the blog. That's what it's there for. This way, others can benefit from the answer to your query, and I get to know that my writing is being read somewhere on the blog, too. :)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Seder Accomplished!

Gentle readers, I can now report from the field. The seder was a huge success! All the meat eaters enthusiastically embraced our vegetarian offerings, and, in fact, after the holiday eve and the next day's lunch, we are officially OUT OF FOOD. Which is funny, because we thought we'd live on the leftovers for the rest of the holiday!

A couple of hours before the Seder, Chad had an inspiring (though somewhat gross) idea, and we embarked on an artistic project: we made images of the Ten Plagues out of Fimo, baked them, and placed one on each plate. We had eleven guests, so one person got a little matzo.

The salads were a big hit.

And so were the main courses.

Altogether, a good experience. The green quiche was particularly successful, and people also liked our celery-mushroom-sprouts stir-fry with an unexpected ingredient. And indeed, here's a recipe for

Celery-Mushroom-Sprouts Stir-Fry with an Unexpected Ingredient

5 celery stalks
5 shiitake mushrooms
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 portobello mushrooms
5 forest mushrooms
2cm piece of ginger
1 tsp schug (Yemenite chile with cilantro and other wonderful ingredients - very hot!)
1/2 tsp honey
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sake
2 cups sprouts

Place shiitake mushrooms in water glass. Fill with water and add soy sauce. Let sit for a night.
The next day, chop up celery stalks to 1 cm slices. Also, slice portobello mushrooms, and cut up forest mushrooms by hand into bite-size pieces. Take shiitake out of cup and keep the liquid. Slice ginger thinly.

In a wok, heat up a bit of canola or olive oil with the ginger and schug. When air becomes fragrant and aromatic, add celery. After five minutes, add mushrooms and some of the mushroom liquid. Gradually, as you stir the contents of the wok, add more liquid, lemon juice, rice vinegar and sake. When things are cooked but still chewy and full of character, add sprouts. Stir-fry for another minute, then serve.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Seder Preparation: Episode 5

More recipes? Gaaaah! These ones are just mini-recipes. I mean, we all know how to roast root vegetables. Right?

(do I hear protest from the back row? okay, I'll explain my method, and you can do it differently if you wish)

Basic idea: Heat up your oven to 200 degrees celsius. Chop up your choice of root vegetables into 1/2- or 1-inch cubes. Vegetables go into an oven bag. Then, add some olive oil, herbs and spices, and shake the bag well to mix the vegetables with the other stuff and coat them well in oil. Tie up bag. Place the bag in an oven-safe dish, preferrably with the tie facing down (there's a reason for this: smaller ovens tend to burn the top part of the bag, and you don't want a charred knot looming over your veg). Cut out a few tiny holes in the part of the bag facing the oven (otherwise, the whole thing will inflate and explode). Place in oven for 45 mins to an hour, until the vegetables are soft and juicy.

Now, usually I like to roast several things in the same bag, so they benefit from each other's flavor. However, this Passover we have a combination of low-carb folks with folks who love potatoes and hate the rest, etc, etc, so I have to roast each vegetable separately. The benefit of that is that it allows me to roast each vegetable with different herbs and spices.

Three mini-recipes (follow basic instructions above with the following spices):

4 large potatoes
5 garlic cloves
2 large onions, quartered
5 long rosemary sprigs
sea salt
black pepper

5 large carrots
1 tsp each: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg
3 garlic cloves

6 small beets
1 heaping tbsp kimmel
3 garlic cloves

Seder Preparation: Episode 4

One of our special vegetable dishes hardly needs any cooking. In fact, what's interesting about this dish, is that the green ful cooks in hot water for about ten minutes, while the peas are left uncooked, and slightly steam when they are mixed with the cooked, steaming-hot ful. Add some lemon juice and zatar, and it's finished, and very very tasty. Moroccan Jews consider green ful to be one of Passover's festive dishes, and they sometimes make it into a special soup and even garnish the table with it (here are some other Moroccan traditions). Our recipe is much simpler. Of course, it only works if the peas are super-fresh and can be eaten raw.

Ful and Peas in Lemon and Zatar

30 ful pods
20 garden pea pods
juice from 1 lemons
1 tbsp zatar

Place ful, in pods, in a pot of hot water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer a bit more - ten minutes in total. During that time, take peas out of pods and place in serving bowls.
When ful is ready, take out of pods and put hot ful right into bowl. Mix with peas. Add lemon juice and zatar to taste.

Variation: this would work like magic with some tchina.

Seder Preparation: Episode 3

This quiche is brilliant. I was looking for something that would enable me not to use flour, and in this dish, the grated potatoes do a great job. It's full of wonderful seasonal spring greens, and you're welcome to substitute them for whatever greens you like - except bok choy. I have a feeling bok choy won't work so well in this dish.

Green Quiche

3 large or 5 smallish potatoes
150 gr feta cheese
150 gr spicy yellow cheese (it's possible to substitute for feta, though two kinds of cheese make it really nice and interesting)
3 large cups of chopped greens: white beet leaves, kohlrabi leaves, broccoli leaves and stems, kale, collard, anything you have at home
2 white parts of leek, chopped in rings
2 eggs
2 garlic cloves

This recipe is much easier to do in a food processor, but is doable by hand, as well.

Heat up oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Grate the potatoes (I don't bother skinning them), and mix them with the cheeses, eggs and garlic.

Some separate the thicker stems from greens when cooking them; I think this can easily be avoided by simply chopping the stems smaller, since the quiche will be cooking for a long time anyway. Chop up greens, and add, with leeks, to the mix. Mix well. If it's still too liquid, add some more greens or another small potato. If too dry, add a little bit of cheese. You'll feel if it's the right consistency if it doesn't move too much and seems packed with solids.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a fork sunk in the middle comes out dry. It'll be a little airy when right out of the oven, but it becomes more solid as it rests outside after it's baked.

Seder Preparation: Episode 2

Six dishes are finished! Three recipes and three mini-recipes follow. Here's the first one.

Deviled eggs

10 hard-boiled eggs
2 large pickled cucumbers (I prefer in brine)
1 stalk green onion
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tbsp good quality mayonnaise
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp black pepper

Carefully cut each egg in half. Try to make the cut so that each half is pretty stable with the yolk removed. This is tricky, but sometimes you can sort of see that the yolk isn't in the middle of the egg.

Carefully separate yolks from whites, place whites on a tray and yolks in a mixing bowl. Chop cucumbers, green onion and parsley into TINY pieces. This is one piece of work where using a food processor won't do - there's no substitute for careful and thorough knifework. Add chopped veggies to the yolks, add mustard, mayo and green pepper, and mix well with a fork.

Place spoonfuls of the mix back into the whites, slightly nudging them into the yellow cavity in the egg. Refrigerate well.

Seder Preparation: Episode 1

Hiya, everyone!

We're getting ready for the Passover Seder, here, and most of the heavy cookery is over. The menu includes some contributions from other members of the family (the fish and meat, obviously, weren't prepared by me, and folks are bringing them with), but the stuff I'm making here is all fresh out of the Chubeza special holiday box we requested.

I decided to go with fresh and seasonal, which meant that some dishes are improvised. We only got the fresh box this afternoon, so had to make some adjustments to the original plan. Anyway, we've finished setting the table:

This beautiful table is mostly the work of my mom, who has a real talent for designing parties and events. She brought in the beautiful table and matched it with candles and napkins in silver and gold.

These beautiful napkin holders (each of them is different!) remind us of our happy years in Ecuador.

Our menu will not, perhaps, be meticulously kosher, but it'll be springy in the sense that it'll only showcase seasonal, fresh, organic vegetables. So tomorrow my family can expect to eat the following:

On the table
seder plate

gefilte fish (grandma)
deviled eggs
cherry tomatoes stuffed with tofu "uncheese"
pickled red peppers (mom)
pickled eggplant (mom)

grandma's chicken broth

Main Courses
walnut roast (mom)
mixed grain plate (mom)
roasted potatoes with rosemary, onion and garlic
baked carrots with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg
roasted beets with kimmel
quiche of greens
green ful and fresh peas in lemon and zatar
bean noodle stir-fry with celery and shiitake mushrooms
green salad with avocado and red grapefruit
cucumber, pepper and tomato salad with sprouts
carrot-radish grated salad (dad)

chocolate mousse
fruit plate (strawberries, kiwi, papaya, oranges, melons, apples)

fresh-ground coffee (from Colombia)
chamomile tea
nut cookies (mom)
egg-foam cookies (gift from our neighbor)
charoset from dates, walnuts, almonds and apples (Chad_
chocolate truffles (mom)