Saturday, June 28, 2008

Vegan Bolognese Sauce with TVP

Despite the heat and moisture floating around the Tel Aviv area, we felt like having spaghetti bolognese today. The recipe is rather easy, and if you make a large quantity, you can freeze it for future use. It uses soy flakes, or TVP, which is a lovely (and cheap!) substance. It's important to use the smaller TVP pieces that have a similar texture to ground meat. While the taste may not be exactly the same (honestly, I wouldn't remember; I've been vegetarian for fifteen years), great things can be achieved using organic canned tomatoes and herbs.

1 1/2 cups soy flakes/TVP
2 tbsps olive oil
4 large, chopped garlic cloves
1 tbsp schug or hot sauce
3 large, ripe tomatoes
1 can organic canned tomato cubes
2 tbsps fresh oregano
1 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp rosemary
a bit of salt (optional)

Place soy flakes in a large pot with fresh water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat somewhat and cook for a few minutes, until flakes are soft and the whole thing looks like a (rather unappetizing) porridge. Strain out the water in a collander.

Heat up olive oil in a large pan or wok and add chopped garlic and schug or hot sauce. Sautee a bit, until fragrance is released. Then, add the cooked and drained soy flakes. Mix them up with the other ingredients and keep cooking, stirring occasionally. The less water in the flakes, the faster this will happen. Do not expect the flakes to brown like meat; just dry'em up a bit and mix well with the aromatics.

Then, add the chopped fresh tomatoes, the canned tomatoes and the herbs (and salt, if desired). Continue cooking for about ten to fifteen minutes, or until most liquids evaporate and you're left with a lovely vegan sauce. You can cook your pasta at the same time, then mix'em together in the wok, or layer pasta in the place and place sauce on top. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Persian Brown Rice with Spice Mixes

Today we made, for the second time, a successful and fragrant batch of Persian brown rice! We owe our success to two sources: Mira Efrati's new book Tasty from Nature, and our inspiring visit to the fantastic spice store in Beit Lechem HaGlilit this afternoon. I urge all Israeli readers to head there when they can and buy some lovely blends; there are delectable and unique herbal tea blends and some wonderful mixtures for rice, soup, and other yummy foods.

Mira Efrati's book, which aims at providing macrobiotic foods, actually makes great strides toward making healthy food palatable; to be honest, it does so at the expense of health, and includes sugar (albeit brown) in many of its sweet recipes. I think it would be particularly useful for people making the transition to healthy whole foods who don't have a lot of experience cooking. It does, however, offer fabulous tips on how to make a basic sourdough and yeast whole grain bread, and on how to make various types of rice based on a basic Persian recipe.

We modified the recipe a bit, so that the rice wouldn't burn the bottom of the pot, and used one of the delicious spice blends; this one included, in addition to a variety of "red" spices which gave the rice a wonderful reddish hue, onions, pine nuts and pecans. But I bet you could use the basic recipe with any spice mix you have. Here goes.

2 cups long grain brown rice
lots of water for stage 1
1 cup water for stage 2 (possibly a bit more)
a pinch of salt
2 tbsps olive oil
5 tbsps dry spice mix

Rinse rice in water several times, then place in pot with tons of water and salt. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until rice is barely chewable but not ready yet. Drain rice into a collander.

Then, coat bottom of pot with olive oil. Layer half the rice on top, then layer spice mix and other half of rice. Make a "hole" in the rice hill, so steam can escape. Drizzle about 3/4 cup water on top.

Place a towel on top of the pot, then place the lid. Cook for about 15 minutes, then check if water has evaporated; if rice is still dry, add the rest of the water. Cook until soft and fragrant. Yum!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

White Beans and Vegetables in Masala Spices

I'm almost done grading, and some culinary sustenance was necessary for the process! Yesterday evening I made what I think is a better version of my good ol' White Beans with Carrot and Celery. Try this version and tell me which is better; I think the addition of caramelized onions, tomatoes, and especially Indian spices, makes this one more interesting.

The spices themselves come from a jar I bought at the Asian grocery store a while ago; the jar is labeled "Biryani Masala", but, upon close inspection of the ingredients, contains what is basically identical to a Garam Masala mix.

White Beans with Carrot and Celery

1 1/2 cups large white beans (butter beans work great!)
1 large onion
4 celery stalks
2 carrots
2 big juicy tomatoes
olive oil
1 tbsp Garam Masala

Soak beans in lots of hot water for a few hours. Discard the liquids.
Start cooking the beans in fresh water in a covered pot.
In the meantime, heat up olive oil (more than you think) and start caramelizing the onions. When they begin to have a golden color, add Garam Masala and continue stirring.
When onions are caramelized, chop celery stalks and carrots into little cubes, add and stir enthusiastically. Add a bit of water if necessary to deglaze the pan. Then, add chopped tomatoes, too. Cook for another ten minutes, until the entire house is fragrant and the tomatoes wilt and release their goodness into the veg mix.
Then, add the cooked beans, and cook for another five minutes so everything absorbs the flavors.
This tastes even better reheated the next day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tofu "Egg" Salad

One of the common side effects of visiting the Old Country is the fact that one ends up spending lots of time with friends and relatives, and therefore ends up eating out quite often and barely cooks. "One" meaning me. Fortunately, Tel Aviv restaurants boast an abundance of vegetables, grains, and beans, and it's quite easy to eat healthful and delicious foods. Only yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting at Puah, a delightful place in Jaffa's flea market, and eating quinoa with vegetables and mung beans in tchina, tomatoes, and spinach.

However, this morning my foodmaking instincts pushed me into the kitchen. This surprising step may have had something to do with the towering stack of exams I'm grading, which act as a wonderful incentive for cleaning the house, ironing shirts, and doing any other sort of menial labor. Not that these exams, in specific, aren't good or interesting. It's just a universal feature of exam grading. Many homemaking and other chores would never get done had their performers not had a pile of exams to grade as an alternative.

Anyway, I craved egg salad, and I didn't want to make it with eggs. I grabbed a couple of recipes from The Tofu Book, a local vegan bible authored by legendary Zehoorit Sheiikhi-Bloom, which my dear pal and master vegan cook Amit photocopied for me a couple of days ago. Faithful readers may recall Amit from the fabulous tchina cookies we made a while ago, and will therefore have ample cause to trust him; and the recipes are, indeed, excellent. Alas, I didn't have all the ingredients, so I had to make the alchemy work with what I had at home. So, here, for your enjoyment, are all three recipes.

The Quick and Easy One

300 grams tofu
1/3 cup tofu-based mayo (here I would use Shizen Tofu; North American readers are warmly recommended Vegenaise)
1 tbsp mustard
1/2 chopped green pepper
1 chopped celery stalk
2 chopped green onions
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric

Drain, dry and crumble tofu. Mix with other ingredients. Serve cold.

The Rich One

450 grams tofu
3 tbsps mayo
2 tbsps oil
1 crushed garlic clove
1 tsp dry dill
1/2 tsp celery seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp sesame
2 tsp brewers' yeast (optional)
1 1/2 tsp mustard
2 chopped green onions
1 chopped celery stalk
1/2 chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley
paprika, salt and pepper to taste

Drain, dry and crumble tofu. Heat up oil in pan, lightly fry tofu and drain again (optional). Place tofu in bowl and mix with other ingredients.

The One I Made

300 gr tofu
1/3 cup tofu mayo
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1/3 white onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin

Drain, dry and crumble tofu. Mix with all other ingredients.

P.S. my version improves when green onions and celery are added; I added them a few hours later and they made the whole thing taste even better. This makes a great meal with a nice salad on the side.