Sunday, December 27, 2015

How to Feed Six People for Seven Days of a Holiday Visit

We're in the home stretch of a long and labor-intensive hosting stint - four guests for seven days! And we're fairly proud of the food we've served. I figured this post might be helpful to you if you're planning on feeding people plant-based holiday food of high quality over the course of several days. You'll notice that this plan relies on some leftover action, but we rework the leftovers so that they're delicious and unrecognizable, and there's always something new.

Things to do in advance, beyond shopping, include making a large quantity of almond yogurt and baking lots of pumpkin breads in mini bundts, freezing them. You can defrost one or two every night in the fridge, then pop it in the oven in the early morning to serve warm before glazing it.

Breakfasts and Brunches

Almond yogurt (save 2-3 tbsp every day to use for the next day's batch)
Pumpkin breads (we baked them in mini-bundt pans, so we could defrost one or two every day)
Cashew-orange glaze
Compote (we made it with lots of prunes)
breads, granola, fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts
coffee, tea, juice

Dinners and Special Meals

Wednesday night

Vegetable and white bean soup (similar to this one, with white in lieu of pinto beans)

Thursday night

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms (make a lot of brown rice and reuse Sunday night, if you like)
Rosemary Gravy
Cranberry Sauce (simmer fresh cranberries in orange juice with a bit of maple syrup)
Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussels Sprouts (halve them and massage with a bit of olive oil and cider vinegar; roast in a 350 oven until golden and crispy)
Green Salad
Chocolate Pots de Creme
Mulled Cider

Friday night

Mini burgers
Potato croquettes
Grilled vegetables
Tahini (mix raw tahini with lemon juice, minced garlic, and parsley, and drizzle on grilled eggplant)

Saturday Night

Mushroom and caramelized onion ravioli (purchased at Rainbow Grocery) in mushroom-alfredo sauce
fresh tomato bruschettas (slice two big tomatoes in half; squeeze out juice; stick flesh of tomato in blender with two onion cloves; toast some good quality bread and spoon tomato mix on them; decorate with ribbons of basil)
Green salad

Sunday Night

Stir-fried bok choy (garlic, ginger, sriracha, soy sauce - you know the drill)
Brown rice
Dark lentil stew
Romanesco broccoli - simply steamed with some lemon squeezed on top
Blondies with nibs and raisins
Coconut ice cream

Monday Night

Cabbage Rolls: I modified the recipe some. We have leftover rice and masoor daal, and I fried up an onion, added the rice and daal, and about 1 cup of minced seitan. I threw in Bragg's liquid aminos and liquid smoke, placed the mix in the food processor for a few seconds to combine better, and used that to stuff the cabbage rolls.
Baked potatoes and sweet potatoes topped with some Miyoko's Cheese
Cauliflower-chickpea-olive salad
Vegetable salad (cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, radishes, lemon juice and a splash of olive oil)


Serving people two giant meals a day, cooked from scratch, is a lot of work for you. You can lay out these snacks at lunchtime and invite people to make their own sandwiches.

Good quality bread
hummus, tahini
Miyoko's Kitchen cheeses
Chao Slices
Field Roast deli slices
fresh oranges and tangerines
fresh cucumber sticks and tomato slices

Rosemary Gravy (and ravioli sauce)

This comes straight from Chloe Coscarelli's Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen, where it accompanies the stuffed portobello mushrooms. I made a few minor adaptations.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
5 mushrooms, or stems of portobellos from other recipe
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups water
3 tablespoons Bragg's
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp rosemary
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in saucepan and saute onion and thinly chopped mushrooms. Add yeast and flour and whisk for 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and continue to whisk until very thick. Transfer to blender and puree until smooth.

And there's a bonus: if you make this with mushrooms it works wonderfully as a ravioli sauce. All you need to do is whisk the prepared gravy, or whatever's left of it, with an equal amount of cashew milk.

Cashew-Orange Glaze

I served a lot of mini-bundt pumpkin cakes this week, and I find they go exceedingly well with this simple and delicious glaze. Here's what you do:

1 cup cashews
1/3 cup water
2 tsp maple syrup
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp orange zest

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Keeps beautifully in the fridge for several days. I can see how this would be a perfect glaze for a carrot cake, too.

Mini Burgers

I've already posted a few versions of mini burgers, such as here and here, but this one might be my best yet, and I discovered it entirely by mistake. On Christmas Eve, we made Chloe Coscarelli's stuffed portobellos and were left with four of them (ten shrooms; six guests). You can, of course, make this from scratch, but I'd recommend this as the next-day meal after you make the mushrooms.

The only additional ingredient you need is about a half-cup of seitan. Place the stuffed mushrooms--stuffing, tomato, and all--in the food processor with some seitan and process until smooth. Make two-inch burgers and grill them with some vegetables. I can totally see taking the mix to a picnic, in a tupperware, and forming and grilling the burgers in situ.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

This recipe was our piece-de-resistance for Christmas dinner, and we made it following the instructions in Chloe Coscarelli's Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen with small modifications: the addition of a bit of minced seitan and a change in spices. I'm reproducing it here, but strongly advise all of you to buy the book, which has many more wonderful recipes!

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1 cup cashews
4 garlic cloves
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 cups cooked lentils
1/2 cup seitan
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup vegetable broth (we used the broth in which the seitan was stored)
1 tbsp Herbs de Provence
10 portobello mushrooms
1 tomato

Preheat oven to 350 and drizzle baking sheet with olive oil. Remove gills and stems from mushrooms and thinly mince. Heat up olive oil in a pan, slice up the onion and fry them up with the cashews until translucent. Add garlic continue sauteeing a few more minutes.

Transfer onion mixture into bowl and add rice, lentils, chopped up seitan, broth, breadcrumbs, and spices.

Brush both sides of each mushroom with a bit of oil, place in one layer on baking sheet, and generously spoon stuffing on top of each. Place a thin slice of tomato on each mushroom. Place baking sheet in oven and bake for about 30 minutes.

We had four leftover mushrooms, which we used to make mini-burgers for the next day. Stay tuned!

Potato Croquettes

This is a nice way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. If you don't have any, make some; with some spices and breadcrumbs, this makes for a nice addition to grilled vegetables and little burgers.

2 Russet potatoes
1 tbsp Earth Balance
1/2 cup almond or soy milk, unsweetened
1 tbsp Herbs de Provence
1 tsp salt
1 tsp lemony pepper
1/4 cup breadcrumbs

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place a couple of Russet potatoes in the microwave until soft, peel as much as you can or wish to, and mash with a fork, mixing up Earth Balance and unsweetened almond or soy milk to taste. Add spices. Roll into little balls and roll each in breadcrumbs. Place on baking sheet and bake until golden.

Blondies with Nibs and Raisins

It is the fifth day of my guests' visit, and the seemingly interminable amounts of chocolate and candy they brought with them are beginning to abate. But everyone seems to fancy sweets this time of year, so I'm baking much more than usual. And, as the Dos Equis man would say...

So, I made blondies, which I plan to serve with coconut ice cream tonight.  I adapted it from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan with a Vengeance

1/3 cup Earth Balance
1/4 package (about 3.5oz) silken tofu
1/2 cup almond milk
3/4 cup jaggery
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/5 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup cocoa nibs
1/2 cup raisins

Heat oven to 325 degrees and place parchment on a square pan. Place Earth Balance, tofu, and almond milk in blender, and blend until smooth. Transfer to bowl and whisk with jaggery and vanilla. Add flour, baking powder + soda, and salt, and mix well. Add nibs and raisins and combine. Pour mix into pan, atop parchment, and smooth with spatula. Bake 25-30 mins, until edges just begin to brown a bit. Take out, cool for at least 30 mins, then cut into pieces.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Almond Yogurt

This yogurt is the bomb! I've made it several times now and, once you figure out the two-step process, it's easy and yields wonderful tangy yogurt. You can see it in the picture on the left in the blue bowl. The recipe comes from Miyoko Schinner's wonderful book The Homemade Vegan Pantry. And it's pretty fortunate, because while now there are marvelously tasty vegan yogurts available, they are also fairly expensive, and this recipe gives you a nice quart of yogurt for the price of an almond milk carton.

The key thing to remember is not to add the yogurt in Step Two before the contents of the jar cool enough to allow the cultures to do their thing. Beyond that, easy peasy.

1 container unsweetened almond milk
1/3 cup cashews
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp agar flakes
2 heaping tbsp vegan yogurt (I use the last of a previous batch; to start the process, you can buy a little container of Kite Hill plain almond yogurt, or any soy yogurt, and use that.)

Step One

Place almond milk, cashews, cornstarch and agar flakes in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into saucepan, place on stove, and whisk while bringing to a simmer. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, until the mix thickens somewhat. Then, turn off the heat and pour the contents of the saucepan into glass jars (I like larger ones.) Place the jars outdoors or on the counter until they chill to 110 degrees (warm, but not hot - so that you can put a finger in the mix comfortably.)

Step Two

When the contents have chilled enough, add the vegan yogurt and mix a bit. Then, close the jars and place them somewhere warm, at about 105-110 degrees. We have an old-fashioned oven, so we just place it inside with the pilot light on; you can put it in a modern oven and turn it on and off, or put it in a dehydrator at a very low temperature, or outside if it's warm. Leave it in the warm space for about 8 hours, then retrieve and place in fridge. The yogurt will continue to thicken in the fridge.

Ecocentricity, Biocentricity, and Hunting

The Hunt in the Forest, Paolo Uccello, circa 1470 (original at Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

We've been hosting Chad's family for a week, a visit that is still ongoing, so in a few days I'll put up a big post on vegan hosting with some fab recipes and advice. But for now, I want to talk a bit about hunting.

Earlier this year, we hosted an event at Hastings titled Hunting for Answers about Sustainable Use Conservation. It was an impressive initiative by our students, which brought together NRA gun enthusiasts, hunters, and Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) activists and lawyers to talk about hunting. The event was prompted by the brouhaha about the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. Among other guests, our event featured a self-described former vegetarian turned hunter and trapper, who spoke about the "hate campaign" waged against her by animal rights activists.

As with all events funded by the ALDF, lunch had to be vegan. Our animal rights student chapter members (of which I'm a proud faculty advisor) liaised with the other student groups organizing the events, and were puzzled when asked where to find "vegan food vendors." "How about... the Earth?" asked one of my students. "You do know that vegetables and fruit are vegan." They were also saddened to see that, in letters to attendees, there was a tone of apologetics about serving a vegetarian lunch. In response to the courteous but overly apologetic email, one attendee, an NRA member, wrote back a furious email, protesting the fact that lunch would not include dead animals (I cannot even fathom what mind produces an angry email about the contents of a free lunch, which do not exclude anyone, and which one is more than welcome to privately substitute for anything they desire across the street. But I suppose my students got a valuable lesson that not everyone in the world is gracious.)

But more to the point: At the event itself I sat with my beloved friends and colleagues, Dave Owen and David Takacs, both of whom know more about the environment than I'll be able to learn in a lifetime. David, whom I consider one of my closest friends, is vegetarian (almost vegan) and a very conscientious person. During the break, we got into an interesting conversation about hunting--a practice that we all absolutely abhor from a personal standpoint, as we can't see any pleasure in promulgating death and suffering for sport. I was surprised to hear from David that there were some advantages to animals in allowing hunting on a small scale, in a heavily licensed and restricted regime. Where one stands on this issue has a lot to do with how one sees the natural universe: through an anthropocentric, ecocentric, or biocentric perspective.

Setting aside anthropocentrics, who think the natural world is here to serve us and cater to us, there are two pro-animal ways to examine hunting. David's view is ecocentric, which is to say, he focuses on the natural world as an ecosystem and on sustaining and encouraging biodiversity as an overarching goal (here's his terrific book on biodiversity.) From that perspective, selling hunting licenses to rich tourists who hunt for leisure, and singling out prey that is too old to reproduce, can bring much-needed funds into poor communities in developing countries that would better serve wildlife species overall. My perspective, by contrast, is biocentric, which is to say, I perceive all life to be of intrinsic value. I simply do not believe that animals are at all ours to sell, kill, or regulate, or that it is for us to judge who lives and who dies, and I believe than any killing that does not serve an immediate survival goal should be outright banned (and socially reviled as a serious moral crime.)

Part of the reason we differ is that we come to the issue of animal rights from different places. David's view has been shaped by science and environmental ethics, while mine owes a lot to philosophy (such as the work of Peter Singer, J. M. Coetzee, and Sherry Colb.) But even though I am fairly firmly in the biocentric camp, I have to be honest and ask myself whether the sanctity of individual life holds well in our less-than-ideal world, in which regulated hunting may result overall in less gratuitous cruelty than poaching. I also have to wonder whether it makes sense to view eusocial insects, such as ants, bees, and wasps, as individuals or as part of a group enterprise (maybe, if ants could philosophize, they'd be more ecocentric; that's at least how matters seem in our kitchen, when they go for a crumb we forgot on the counter!). In short, I know where I stand, but I have respect and appreciation for the competing worldview.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dark Lentil Stew

I had wonderful guests today and made them lunch, which included this lentil dish. It's not authentic Indian or Moroccan, but rather a haphazard creation including spices from both cuisines. I made it in a slow cooker and, for various hosting reasons, used the high temperature setting. I imagine you could make this over a longer period of time using the low setting, or even let it simmer slowly on the stove.

1 tsp olive oil
1 yellow onion
2 cups masoor daal
1 tomato, cubed
1 small eggplant, cubed
7-8 mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly chopped
1 tbsp ras el hanout
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
3 cardamom pods

Heat olive oil in pan. Slice onion thinly and caramelize in the oil.
While this is going on, place daal, tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms and garlic in slow cooker. Add the onion. Cover with boiling water about an inch and a half above the ingredients. Add all spices - be sure to crush the cardamom pods before placing them in the pot. Cook on high setting for three hours or on a low setting for longer.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Adventures in Soy: Soymilk, Okara Cake, and Vegan CrabCakes

Being unwell at home has its advantages: boredom breeds big kitchen projects. Happily, I was well enough to mill about the kitchen, and we had a package of dry soybeans lying about.

I started off by making soymilk, for the first time ever. I had two recipes on hand: one from The Homemade Vegan Pantry and one from The Tofu Book. The former advocates boiling the beans for one minute and the latter instructs to soak them overnight. Since I wanted to go through the whole process from start to finish that day, I went with the former approach.

Making soymilk is a multi-step approach. It starts off with boiling a great quantity of water in a big pot. Then, the beans are added to the boiling water and boiled for one minute. The pot is then removed from the stove and left to cool for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, I drained the beans. I put some of them in my blender with fresh water and blended to the point of creating a thick slurry. I then poured the slurry into a nut milk bag over a big bowl, squeezing with all my might. The milk dripped into the bowl; okara, the by-product of soymilk, was left inside the bag. I repeated the process in batches, until all soybeans were blended and milked. I ended the process by simmering the milk for ten minutes without letting it boil. Contrary to the book's promise, the soymilk retained much of its original, beany flavor, which some absolutely love. I'm not very fond of it, but it can be partially masked with some vanilla extract. I might make tofu out of the milk I have, but I don't think I'll make this process a habit. Next time, I'll try the soaking method, but I suspect it'll yield a similar outcome.

The silver lining of the entire enterprise was the okara; I was left with so much of it that I packaged and froze four cups. I was left with enough fresh okara for two feats: a dried fruit cake and Miyoko Schinner's "fab cakes", which were a resounding success.

The recipe for fab cakes is in The Homemade Vegan Pantry; it requires a lot of ingredients, but fortunately I happened to have odds and ends of everything at home. I encourage you to buy the book and try this recipe. It's fantastic. The cake itself is made mainly of okara and silken tofu, so it's rich in protein and fiber, and it also contains quite a bit of delicious nori. Having missed crab cakes quite a bit, I was delighted to have such a delicious substitute.

The recipe for dried fruit cake is my own, so I'm happy to share it:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup fresh okara
1 cup boiling water + 3 tbsp room temperature water
1 cup mixed dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, apricots, figs)
4 tbsp flax seeds
2 tbsp brown sugar (and I think this would come out fabulous even without sweetener)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp hawaiiej for coffee (but I think you can do without)
1 pinch salt

Heat oven to 350 Farhenheit.
Pour cup of boiling water over dried fruit and leave aside to plump a bit.
Grind one tbsp of the flax and mix with three tbsp water. Leave aside to become gelatinous.
In a big bowl, mix oil, sugar, and vanilla. Add flax and dried fruit (with the liquid) and mix some more. Then, add all dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Pour into pan--I used my trusty silicone bundt cake pan--and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife plunged into the middle comes out dry and clean.

I've done some more reading on okara. It seems that you can easily substitute about 1/2 of the flour in almost any baking recipe with okara, though some websites prefer the use of dried to fresh. Since I used fresh okara, I can attest that it doesn't harm the final product; the cake came out marvelous, fluffy and moist, and makes a delightful breakfast treat. What with this and the fake crab cakes, I feel like I got a lot out of my soymilk-making adventure--including newfound appreciation for commercial unsweetened organic soymilk, which I plan to continue buying most of the time!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Banana Cake

Emboldened by the successful poached pear pie, I decided to do something about the four overripe bananas in our fruit basket. This came out delightful--moist, fragrant, wholesome, and not too sweet.

4 ripe bananas
1/2 cup coconut sugar, brown sugar, or maple syrup
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used safflower oil)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
tiny bit of salt
optional: almond slivers, unsweetened coconut flakes

Heat oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Mash bananas in a bowl and add sugar and vegetable oil. When sort of mixed, add flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and mix until combined (not too much). If you like, add almond slivers and coconut flakes. Transfer to pan (I like my Bundt cake silicone pan) and bake for about 35 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry. Wait until the cake cools to invert and slice.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Poached Pear Pie

We've been invited to a post-Thanksgiving party called You're Welcome! And we're not coming empty-handed. This beautiful (and entirely vegan) pie will be our contribution to the festivities.

6 ripe pears
1 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
1 herbal tea bag (we used rose hip and lavender)
2 cinnamon sticks
5 cloves
4 cardamom pods
1 splash whiskey
1 homemade or bought pie crust
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 tbsp agar flakes
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
1 tsp powdered nutmeg

Halve the pears and core them. Place the pear halves in a bit pot. Add cranberry juice, herbal tea bag, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cardamom, and whiskey. Then, add hot water to cover the pears. Simmer for about 15-20 mins.

Remove pear halves from syrup. Wait until they cool down a bit, then slice thinly and arrange in pie crust. 

Strain syrup from all whole spices, add powdered spices, agar, and maple syrup. Cook until reduced to a syrupy consistency (a bit liquid is okay; the agar will help it gel). Drizzle onto pie to cover pears. Bake for 30 mins at 350 degrees. Let cool completely.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Delicate Zucchini Soup

It's a cold post-Thanksgiving morning, with a gorgeous but deceitful sun outside. To stay warm, I made a simple green soup. It's creamy, yet not too rich, and very easy to make.

6 zucchini
2 potatoes
1 onion
2-3 garlic cloves
optional: powdered dried vegetables or a bouillon cube
1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk or other nutmilk
4 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper, and parsley to taste

Cover zucchini, potatoes, garlic, and onion with salted water, add dried vegetables or bouillon, and bring to a boil. Then, lower the heat and simmer until vegetables are soft. Transfer vegetables, and some of the water, into a blender and puree. Add soymilk and olive oil and puree again until smooth. Return to pot, mix with broth, and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle fresh parsley on top.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Tom Kha Kai

The intense travel and business obligations have finally won: I'm unwell. Chad very kindly made a beautiful pot of Tom Kha Kai, one of my favorite Thai soups.

1/2 package extra-firm tofu
10 white mushrooms
8 cloves garlic
1/2 butternut squash
3 tbsp curry paste
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 can coconut cream
1-2 cups water
1 cup chopped greens (we used mustard greens, but any greens will do)
2 roma tomatoes, diced
a few stalks lemongrass
1 oz galanga root
2 leaves from lemon tree (kaffir lime would've been authentic, but we have a lemon tree
1/2 package rice noodles

Stir-fry and brown tofu, mushrooms, garlic and squash with curry paste in sesame oil. Once browned, add coconut cream and an equal amount of water. Add diced tomatoes and greens, as well as galanga, lemongrass, and lemon leaves. Lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Separately, soak rice noodles in boiling water and add to soup right before serving.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


My one and only friend Dena has outdone herself again. Her birthday gift to me was Amanda Feifer's beautiful book Ferment Your Vegetables. 

Feifer, the owner of Phickle blog, is a true fermentation enthusiast, and her descriptions of bacteria and biological processes bubble, pun intended, with a vivacious spirit of experiment. She explains the process clearly and helpfully, details the necessary (cheap) equipment (you pretty much already have what you need) and provides dozens of great recipes for different vegetables.

I plan to make pretty much everything in the book! Today I started off with her radishes and onion recipe, modifying it--I can't seem to make any recipe as written--by adding the beets we have left over from a week of soups and juices. I shall report back on the outcome, but this is basically what I did:

8 radishes
4 beets
1 red onion
2 cups water
4 tbsp salt

I sliced the radishes and beets to a 1/2 inch thickness, tetris-ed them into a jar, then poured the water and salt brine on top. I weighed down the veg with a silicone glass cover, and now we wait.

Roasted Root Vegetables

This simple dish is something I often make to accompany other things. I got extremely lucky yesterday: Whole Foods had purple yams, which I had never seen before. The combination of white, orange, and purple made the dish beautiful as well as tasty.

The principle is simple: Take whichever root vegetables you have and dice them into 1.5-inch cubes. Place in one layer in on a baking sheet. Add olive oil, rosemary sprigs, garlic, some salt and pepper, and roast in a 350-degree oven.

An important improvement: Roasted roots are juicier and more moist inside if roasted inside an oven bag. Don't forget to poke a few holes in the bag for steam to escape.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

White beans with Kale

Cannellini beans work very well with kale, and in this gentle recipe they combine to form a warm and satisfying dish.

4 cups cannellini beans, dry
2 package dino kale
2 tsp olive oil
juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
handful sage leaves
1 tsp herbs de provence

Soak beans in water (for hours if possible; if not, soak briefly in boiling water).
Tear kale leaves into little pieces, getting stems out of the way. Add 1 tsp olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and massage leaves until tender, dark green, and not bitter anymore. Set aside.

Meanwhile, drain beans, add fresh water to cover them, and cook until tender.

Mix beans with kale, sprinkling sage and herbs de provence on dish.

Green Salad and Red Salad

Two of my favorite vegetable salads: a green one with avocado and grapefruit, and a tomato-mint based red one.

Green Salad

1 large package mixed greens, or 50/50 mixed greens with baby spinach
2 ripe avocados
2 red grapefruits
1 tbsp good quality mustard
1 tsp olive oil
juice from 1/2 lemon
3 tbsp water

Peel and dice avocados and grapefruit. Toss with mixed greens in big bowl. Shortly before serving, mix remaining four ingredients and drizzle over salad.

Red Salad

10 Roma tomatoes
6 radishes
1/2 red onion
juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp olive oil
handful mint leaves

This one works best with very thin slices, so strive for those as you slice tomatoes, radishes, and onion. Place in bowl in layers and drizzle lemon juice and olive oil on top. Sprinkle thinly ribboned mint leaves.

Two-Step Spicy Green Beans

In 2009 I backpacked in China with my friend Rosie. When we arrived in Xi'an to see Emperor Qin Shi Huang's terracotta army, we found the city just as fascinating, complete with a beautiful Muslim quarter with mosques. The food in the Muslim quarter was spicier than anywhere else we went; Rosie could not even eat the green beans because they contained more chiles than beans! But we did like the flavor very much, enough to try and replicate it upon our return with just a tad less heat.

It turns out that the special flavor and texture of the beans requires a two-step process. The excellent resource Serious Eats explains that, in China, this comes from deep-frying the beans as Step 1. They suggest, instead, broiling the beans before tossing them with the aromatics. Alas, I don't have a broiler, so I tossed the beans in a very hot dry pan (no oil at all) until I charred them, and then tossed them with the remaining ingredients.

4 cups green beans
10 shiitake mushrooms
1 chile
2 tbsp chopped scallions
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp grated garlic
1 tbsp Bragg's Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil

Trim edges off green beans. Heat a dry pan, and when it's very hot, toss beans in. Keep moving the beans in the pan until you can see some searing on all the beans. Remove from pan.

Add oil and thinly sliced chili to pan. Heat for a couple of minutes, then reduce heat and add scallions, ginger, garlic, and Bragg's. Cook for another two minutes. Add mushrooms and toss around until soft. Then add beans and toss a bit. Serve hot right away!

Vegan Chocolate Pots-de-Creme

Tonight I'm serving dinner for 20; my seminar students are coming over for our last class. Lots of beautiful salads, grains, legumes, roasted vegetables and other exciting things in the making; the first thing to be prepared and in the fridge is dessert.

My friend Andrea forwarded me a recipe for pots-de-creme, and I've modified it a bit and made enormous quantities. The following will leave you with a blenderful of creme, which you can serve in nice glass cups, pour into little filo dough ramekins (that's what we did here), or freeze for ice cream.

2 packages tofu: I used one silken and one firm. Soft would do just as fine.
2 1/4 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 package (approx 2 cups) dark chocolate chips
2 tbsp baking cocoa
optional: 2 tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup

Heat almond milk in saucepan until very hot but not yet boiling. At the same time, place tofu, chips, cocoa powder and sugar in blender. Add hot milk and blend until very very smooth. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Red Lentil Stew

This stew is so simple and incredibly tasty. I made it after a long day of eating less-then-optimal food at a work event (bagels for breakfast, sandwiches and chips for lunch; would you like more starch with your starch?). After learning lots of interesting things, and collaborating with others in a new initiative that, it is hoped, will make the world just a bit better, I worked out and then decided to make something warm and nice for dinner. It's a pretty red soup, but to my surprise it doesn't become beet-pink. I bet the leftovers will be even better at lunch tomorrow!

2 cups red lentils
4 large carrots
3 large zucchini
3 medium-sized beets
4 large shiitake mushrooms
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp dried vegetable powder
1 tbsp baharat
1 tsp salt

Dice all vegetables. Place in pot and cover with hot water. Cook for at least 30 minutes; the longer this cooks, the better, and you might need to add some water once the lentils drink it up.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

What I'd Really Like for my Birthday

As the semester reaches its usual boiling point, I think of home as a place of rest and repose. Which is why, for my birthday, which happened this weekend, I didn't actually want to do anything special. Still, many special things happened. We had a wonderful dinner at Greens. I got a beautiful white orchid from my friend Raul and a vegan chocolate cake and a snazzy handmade dress from reclaimed sweaters and a gorgeous mug for my morning tea from Chad. And my parents funded my new Vitamix, which is a source of endless cooking magic. And this morning, my beloved friend Dena sent me a fermenting book, Amanda Feifer's Ferment Your Vegetables. I can't wait to make my own kimchi!

I have everything I could possibly need, live happily and want for nothing. But if you really, really want to give me a birthday gift, please exclude meat, cheese, and eggs from a meal, or two, or five, or all of them, this week. There is nothing that will make me happier than more animals that will get to live thanks to this simple action. Thank you!

Chamin 3.0: Extreme Departure from Tradition

It's finally raining a bit in San Francisco--just in time to help our new olive tree, whom we named Habibi, to adapt to its new surroundings, and to irrigate our newly-in-the-ground purple cauliflower and brussels sprouts. Of course, this also means putting up a new chamin pot.

My prior forays into the world of chamin produced this wonderful pot and this delectable version. But today, the slow cooker includes:

1 cup azuki beans
1 cup mung beans
1/2 cup brown rice
1 sugarpie pumpkin, lightly roasted in the oven
1 big onion, chopped and lightly browned in olive oil
5 shiitake mushrooms
1 package of kale

Not quite Eastern European, but very delicious. I seasoned it with cloves, cracked cardamom pods, and a couple of spoonfuls of dried vegetable powder, and covered with hot water for a long cooking time (4 hours on high, 10 more hours on low). The nice thing about layering the ingredients neatly in the pot  is that you can serve yourself whatever you like and leave behind things you like less. In my case, this is not a problem, as I like everything!

Homemade Pita

Who doesn't like a fresh pita, straight from the oven? If you don't, it's because you've been eating thin, inadequate North-American ones, not the fluffy Middle-Eastern ones. Chad got this recipe from Aba Gil, who now has a gluten-free, vegan deli in Tel Aviv. Before his gluten-free phase, Aba Gil had a wonderful organic humusserie, which we used to frequent when we lived in Israel. And he taught (and still teaches) great workshops. Chad attended one of those and kept the recipe for posterity; today we made some of these and ate them with fragrant ful, jalapeno"cheese", and vegetables.

Anyway, here goes:

Mix and knead a bit:

500g flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 packet active yeast
350cc water (about 12oz)

These will create a firm dough - for those of you used to baking non-pita bread in a pan, the dough will be firmer than your remember. You should exercise some judgment with the water; you might not need all of it. Place dough in a bowl, cover with a towel, and leave somewhere warm for an hour (we used our old oven, with the pilot light on.)

After an hour, break the dough, which should be pretty gargantuan by now, into six balls of aproximately 4-5 inch diameters, and give them a bit of a mushroom cap shape. The original recipe calls for letting those sit for an additional 40 mins, but our meticulous experiments prove you can wait only 10 mins or so and that's enough.

When ready to make, roll the balls into 8-9 diameter flat discs, approximately 1cm (2/5 inch) thick.

Heat a dry frying pan to a very, very, very hot temperature! Place the pita on the pan and wait for it to balloon up (that's the pocket, you see). Flip so that both sides are heated evenly. When ready, take out of pan and enjoy warm and fresh.

Jalapeño "Cheese"

This one is very, very, very easy, and is an excellent sandwich filling. Highly recommended!

1/2 package firm tofu
2 jalapeño peppers
a bit of lemon juice
a bit of salt

Open the jalapeños and get as many seeds out as you like (the more you leave in, the spicier it will be). Place them in blender or food procesor with tofu, lemon juice, and salt to taste; blend/mix until homogenous and pink. Note that the image shows it on homemade pita; recipe forthcoming.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread!

We used the basic recipe from the Minimalist Baker and made a few substitutions - doubling the recipe and using ingredients we happened to have at home. The method of preparation is the same, but our ingredients were:

1 cup jaggery
6 tbsp olive oil
3tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
pinch sea salt
pinch chana masala seasoning
1 cup soy milk
2.5 cups whole-grain flour blend (we used about 40% oat, 25% buckwheat,  25% brown rice, 10% arrowroot powder)
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup roasted walnuts
1 tbsp flax
3 tbsp water

We served it with a dollop of cashew cream on top (unsweetened, but with a tad of vanilla extract) and some fresh kiwi on the side.

Winter Is Coming Garden Soup

Growing vegetables in a small plot, or in windowsill boxes, is easy, cheap, and very gratifying. In Tel Aviv, I grew herbs in boxes on my balcony; in El Cerrito, I had a little plot in the back yard. Here in Mission Terrace we grow vegetables all around the garden, surrounded by flowers and, sometimes, by curious cats. But one of our favorite vegetable growing spots is in the L-shaped plot around our house. We don't have, never have, and never will have, a lawn; instead, we have fruit trees and a variety of California natives (the yerba buena is particularly aromatic and gladdens our neighbors; several of them have mentioned how much they like to walk by and smell our plants). The advantage of natives, beyond their beauty, is their adaptive nature; they deal better with the drought than other plants, and certainly better than water-intensive lawns, many of which are now dry in California.

[As an aside, brown lawns have become a bit of a status symbol in the Bay Area, n'est ces pas? It saddens me a bit that we're engaging in these showy water-saving displays when eating plants in lieu of animal products is the single most meaningful and important step everyone can take to save water. Eating a burger--one burger--is the equivalent of showering for two months straight. I wish the powers-that-be were less preoccupied with placating this cruel industry; if all Californians refrained from eating meat, dairy, and eggs on a fairly regular basis, much of these brown-is-the-new-green dramatics would be unnecessary.]

But back to the vegetables. Surrounded by flowers we have a vegetable plot in which we grow seasonal produce. In the picture you can see a colander full of freshly picked chard and kale (several varieties of each.) There is so much that can be done with them, but yesterday's drizzle called for some soup, so here it is:

1 pound chard, kale, and other green vegetables
1 sweet potato
1 potato
4 celery stalks
1/2 onion
1 cup Pomi or other canned tomato product (or fresh tomatoes)
Herbs de Provence to taste
(if you have any) 2 tbsp dried vegetable soup mix

Slice and dice vegetables and place in pot with Pomi, herbs, and dried vegetables. Cover with water and cook for 45 minutes.

Grilled Vegetables

Vegetables on the grill are so delicious that the prominence of meat in the many grilling events I've attended over the years is somewhat befuddling. All you need is some produce and a bit of creativity, as we found out yesterday at Tomales Bay

The sky was overcast and it was gently drizzling the whole time, but it did not deter us from going for a nice swim in the chilly bay, where we had a couple of pelicans for company. They swam and flew very close to us--how exciting!

The pelicans reminded me of how much I love Judy Irving's terrific documentary Pelican Dreams. In fact, that's the movie that pushed me to become vegan, because I realized, while learning about the environmental threats faced by these beautiful birds, that everything is interconnected, and that the best thing I could do for all animals--farm animals AND wild animals--is to stop consuming them in any form.

But back to the vegetables. After our swim, we sliced up a potato, a yam, and a red onion, removed the less-exciting parts of several green onions, sliced up two Field Roast sausages lengthwise, and removed the stems from an entire bunch of rainbow chard leaves. We set all of this up in one layer on foil, drizzling olive oil and sprinkling cumin on our bounty.

Setting up the grill is easy, but time consuming. It calls for a match, some kindling (we used splinters) and coals. We started by lifting the grid (and cleaning the ashes inside), and then by making a little fire with the splinters and doctoring it to health. This requires some patience when there's wind and a drizzle, but is certainly doable. Then, we gently and carefully placed the coals atop the little fire, taking care not to extinguish it.

The idea behind cooking on charcoal is as follows: when oxygen (in the air) meets carbon (in the charcoal), they produce CO2 (they also sometimes produce CO, carbon monoxide, which is why doing this indoors is a very bad idea.) A by-product of the chemical reaction is heat. You can tell that things are going okay by the coals starting to become white and ashen. When the process starts, it's time to put down the grid and layer the foil atop it. It helps with steaming if you cover your food with a second piece of foil.

Everything on the grill was delicious, but I was particularly fond of the chard and sweet potato. The grilling process imparted a smoky and wonderful taste, which you can sort-of-but-not-accurately recreate at home by adding liquid smoke. The big discovery was how unnecessary meat was. While the vegan sausages were great, the vegetables were terrific, and I can see us trying with eggplant, green beans, and tomato slices next time.

Finally, before heading home, don't forget to extinguish the fire!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Stop Bragging and Gloating about Eating Bacon

In the aftermath of the World Health Organization report published yesterday, which linked red and processed meat to cancer risk, several of my friends have recurred to Facebook to reiterate their commitment to stuffing their faces with bacon, because it's tasty, goddammit, and because the minuscule increase in risk is not worth giving up their delightful pleasure. As a reward for this sentiment, they get "likes", and "mmmm, bacon", and smiley emoticons.

I understand why people do this. They cling to what they know and are used to, they don't want to change, and they therefore reject new information that contradicts their old ways. It's the oldest heuristic in the Kahneman and Tversky bag of tricks. Moreover, if they post about their desire to cling to their habit, they're bound to get "likes" and other confirmations from people who are also reluctant to let go, which strengthens their resolve to stick with it.

I also understand how easy it is to ignore the realities of what one is eating as long as one is not directly confronted with them. Any disruption of this ignorance (such as a new report or a vegan's presence) reminds people of things they don't like to think about, such as that the meat on their plate once swam, walked, flew, enjoyed the sunshine, and wanted to continue living. Or that the meat on their plate came from someone who lived their lives in conditions comparable to those in a concentration camp before being deprived of life. It's not a comfortable thought; we all like to believe that we are good people, so it's easier to ignore our complicity in something horrible and go back to one's meat-eating support base and get some pats on the back.

Nonetheless, reading these posts throws me into an abyss of distress. I get that it's hard for people to let go of what was traditionally on their plate. But to take moral relish in the killing of pigs for taste? To openly revel and boast in opting for participating in the world's vilest, cruelest industry and in the suffering of living beings because it's tasty, goddammit? It's particularly disturbing when it comes from people who I know are committed to world improvement in all other aspects of their lives. From people who cry out against much lesser cruelties on a daily basis. I guess the human rights buck really stops with "human", even though the desire to live, the love of our offspring, and complex emotions of fear, pain, and suffering, are common to all of us.

When things like this happen, I'm reminded of J. M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals. Like his heroine, Elizabeth Costello, "I want to find a way of speaking to fellow human beings that will be cool rather than heated, philosophical rather than polemical, that will bring enlightenment rather than seeking to divide us into the righteous and the sinners, the saved and the damned, the sheep and the goats.”  But how do I cope, every day, with friends and acquaintances that I know to be kind, good, moral people, and who participate in the most horrific crime against other living beings every day without batting an eyelash, and feel it is appropriate to gloat and boast about this? It's a contradiction that is really hard to live with.

Please, open your eyes. If you cut back on animal products--or, better still,eschew them completely--the taste sacrifice you'll supposedly make is minor (as this blog proves, it's non-existent!) and you'll exit the vilest human crime on earth. The cancer prevention is just a side benefit.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Chamin 2.0: Halloween Version

I really hope some of you got to make my four-color chamin recipe from a couple of weeks ago--it really rocked. I'm posting yet again about chamin because I've made some seasonal improvements to the recipe and it came out even more wonderful (and more nutritious!) than the previous installment.

Essentially, what I did was replace the white potatoes with a squash and more carrots, making the meal more orange and less white. I also did away with the rice and put in mung beans instead. It came out phenomenal, and I'm thrilled to have a hot meal for the rest of the week!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


This morning I happily found a way to veganize one of my favorite egg dishes, shakshuka. Old-timer followers of this blog may recall that I once posted a shakshuka recipe here, and I've rather missed it. But FEAR NOT. It's very simple: All you have to do is, in lieu of the egg, crumble some tofu into the red sauce. The texture is a bit different, but I have to say that the taste is remarkably similar, and it delivers a heap of protein.

I'd use about 85 grams of tofu (a two-inch-by-two-inch-by-half-an-inch block) for every cup of sauce. This really requires some generosity with the sauce.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

New Smoothies: Carrot Pineapple and "Poached" Pear

The new Vitamix is a thing of marvel, and it has inspired me to create new types of smoothies. Every morning I make up a new recipe. The latest two successes have been really special:

Carrot Pineapple
1 cup soymilk
1 carrot
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1/2 cup chard
1 tsp turmeric

"Poached" Pear
1 cup almond milk
1 pear
2 plums
1/2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
2 cloves
1 tsp cinnamon

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Morning Tofu Scramble

It's been a long morning; I started working at 5am and will be working until 10pm. Fortunately, I have a brief lull getting from home to the office and managed to make myself a decent breakfast:

100gr extra-firm tofu (about 3/4 cup crumbled)
1 tbsp chopped onion
1 garlic clove, chopped
12 cherry tomatoes
2 cups chard leaves, sliced into ribbons
3 large mushrooms
1 tbsp hot sauce
1 tsp olive oil

Heat up olive oil in pan. Add onion, garlic, and mushrooms, and sautee until they soften a bit. Add chard and tomatoes and sautee a few more minutes. In a little bowl, crumble the tofu and mix with the hot sauce. Add to pan and stir fry with the vegetables. Yum!

UPDATE: Great variation - pesto sauce in lieu of the hot sauce, and a little bit of Miyoko's Kitchen mozarella! Also marvelous.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Four-Color-Chamin: Vegan and Satisfying

Despite the fact that El Niño has not arrived yet, I found myself in a winter preparatory mood (I know, I know, it's 75 degrees outside) and made chamin, the cold-weather, slow-cooked wonder my grandma used to make on Saturdays. Typically, we'd all show up, eat a fresh salad and a big plate of chamin, and then essentially collapse in a diagonal fashion and fail to move for hours. The vegan version is much lighter than the one that includes big chunks of beef and stuffed guts.

My recipe changes a bit every time I make this, but this time I decided to follow the advice of an expert and made one of Ori Shavit's recipes. I had no red quinoa, so I substituted it for red kidney beans, and included black dal and white beans as well. Here's the recipe, translated to English, with my changes and modifications:

1 cup black dal
1 cup white beans
1 cup basmati rice
1 cup kidney beans
2 russet potatoes, thickly sliced
3 sweet potatoes, thickly sliced
3 carrots, thickly sliced
1 red onion, coarsely chopped
5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
3 prunes, chopped
3 bay leaves
5 sage leaves
blackened spice to taste (I used 1 tbsp for the whole pot)
salt to taste (I used 1 tbsp for the whole pot)
7-8 peppercorns
olive oil

If possible, soak the beans and rice in water overnight; if not, no worries (this is a slow-cooked recipe.)
In a heavy pan, heat up a bit of olive oil and sautee the onion, garlic, bay leaves and safe leaves. After a few minutes, add the potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots, and sautee for a few more minutes. Then, place and layer that whole mixture at the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker. On top of it, arrange the rice and beans in four distinct areas (each in every corner), add prune pieces, peppercorns, salt, and blackened spice, and carefully cover with boiling water. Set slow cooker to "high" for three hours. Then, add boiling water to cover again, and set slow cooker to "low"for twelve hours.

This improves when reheated, refrigerates and freezes wonderfully, in case you don't have a horde of people coming over for the weekend.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Almond "Feta"

This was a massive pantry day! We made three loaves of seitan--Italian, Berbere, and Cajun--and froze most of them. And I also made almond "feta", which is now happily brining in the fridge.

The recipe comes from Miyoko Schinner's The Homemade Vegan Pantry, which is turning out to be an extremely useful resource. Here's the process:

Step 1

2 cups blanched almonds
1 cup liquid from sauerkraut
a bit of salt

I soaked the almonds for a few hours in water, then drained them and processed in the blender with the liquid and salt. I poured the remaining mixture into a container and put it on the counter to culture. With the warm weather we had, it cultured the following day! (how do you know? you taste it to figure if it's tangy.)

Step 2

2/3 cup water
2 tbsp agar powder

I simmered these together on low heat until the agar dissolved and solidified. Then, I turned off the heat, added the almond mixture, and whisked. I then poured the mixture into a container lined with cheesecloth and placed it in the fridge for a few hours.

Step 3


The cheese is ready and solid! I cut it into four pieces and placed them in a different container, pouring salt water on top. I'm told it will be wonderful and improve as time goes by.

Oh, and just for fun - here's what we had for dinner: fresh sourdough with hummus and mature ful, green ful lightly steamed with lemon juice and za'atar, caprese with vegan mozzarella from Miyoko's Kitchen, and a cucumber-dill salad. It was atrociously hot and this is all we could manage. The only thing here that might not be obvious is the ful topping on the hummus, but all there was to it was opening a can and sauteeing it a bit with sliced onion and some baharat.

UPDATE: The cheese came out wonderful!

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Step-By-Step Seitan

I've been wanting to make homemade seitan for a while, ever since I took Psalm Lewis' wonderful cooking class. At that workshop, we made vegan pot pie with seitan made from scratch--it's not difficult, and with all the ingredients on hand you can have a nice and reliable protein source for cheap. This morning I bought some vital wheat gluten and other essentials and followed Psalm's recipe:


Step 1:
1 cup vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
 2 tsp baharat (I did that in lieu of poultry seasoning, but I imagine anything meatlike would do)
1 tsp mashed garlic (the original recipe calls for garlic powder)
1 tsp paprika
3/4 cup cooked and mashed beans (I used black-eyed peas, which is what I had around the house)
1 tbsp Bragg's liquid aminos

Step 2:
broth or bouillion or dried vegetables

I measured and mixed the dry ingredients, then added the wet ingredients, and kneaded them into a ball--actually, more of a loaf shape--which I then left to rest for 15 minutes.

I then made some broth, placed the loaf in it wrapped in cheesecloth, and let that simmer for 30 minutes.

Then, I let the content of the pot cool somewhat before taking the seitan out of it.

I let the seitan cool completely before slicing it into 1/4-inch cubes, some of which I froze and some placed in the fridge for immediate use. Yum!
Update: Here are some of the seitan chunks in a nice tomato-based ragu. It came out absolutely delicious.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Collard Pesto and Caprese

To your left is a nice, summery Italian meal: pasta with a Pesto of Hidden Value and magical caprese. All of this is vegan, with a helpful hand from Miyoko's Kitchen!

First, the clandestine pesto. I added an entire giant bunch of raw collard greens to the classic recipe, to which it adds some intense green color and a bit of flavor. It's the newest addition to my old bag of tricks--I try to add leafy greens to everything I make, partly because of their fabulous calcium content--and pesto is the ideal delivery vehicle for it.

To make this marvel, you'll need:

1 bunch collard greens
4 large garlic cloves
3 tbsp pine nuts
1 cup basil leaves
olive oil (in a bottle that allows drizzling)
a dollop of Miyoko's Kitchen Double Cream Chive

Cut collard greens into ribbons and place in food processor. Process until very thinly chopped. Add garlic, pine nuts, and basil, and continue processing; slowly drizzle olive oil from the top as you're processing everything else until it reaches a consistency you like. Add a few small chunks of Miyoko's Kitchen cheese, if you like, and continue processing until more or less homogenous. Mix with pasta and serve.

Second, the caprese: this salad was one of the grand loves of my pre-vegan life, and today a marvelous thing happened: I received my shipment of Miyoko's buffalo-style vegan mozarella. We had a giant heirloom tomato lying about, so I sliced it, placed a piece of mozarella on each slice, and decorated each with a basil leaf.

Now that I've eaten this salad I can happily say that veganism does not entail even a shred of sacrifice, and all my culinary pleasures are well satisfied without cruelty. Thank you, Miyoko!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer Hosting: Stuffed Mushrooms and Eggless Salad

Sunday Streets, a city-organized block party occurring in a different neighborhood every month, was in the Excelsior today. Salsa and rock bands, booths, food trucks, and lots and lots of happy people on bicycles.

On a whim, we sent out an email inviting friends over for an open house today, so I made some cool snacks: it's always good to serve some cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, and blanched green beans, and I had a winter truffle cheese from Miyoko's Kitchen. I also roasted an eggplant and served two fun inventions:

Eggless Salad

1 block extra-firm tofu
1.5 tbsp Just Mayo or Vegenaise
2 tbsp good quality brown mustard
about an inch off a leek, just the white part
1 large dill pickle
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp chana masala/garam masala powder
salt and pepper to taste

Mix mayo and vegenaise in a mixing bowl. Slice leeks very finely, then cut through to obtain thin strips. Cut pickle into small cubes.

Crumble entire block of tofu into bowl. Add leeks and pickle and mix well. Season to taste and keep refrigerated.

Stuffed Mushrooms

20 white or brown champignon mushrooms
1-2 tbsp Bragg's Liquid Aminos
2 tbsp parsley
3 onion cloves
2 tbsp strained tomatoes
1 vegan sausage (I like using Field Roast)

Carefully remove stems from all mushrooms. Place stemmed mushrooms on a tray and sprinkle Bragg's Liquid Aminos on top. Slice sausage into twenty discs and place one in the hollow of each mushroom. Finely chop the stems, parsley, and garlic, and mix with strained tomatoes. Spoon a bit of the mix on top of the sausage in each mushroom and bake for about 30-45 mins or as long as you like until the tops are browned.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Fantasy Vegan Cookbooks: Perfect Photos, Perfect People, Perfect Food

Right after polishing off a plate of veg, bean, and potato salad, I realized something interesting: I was inspired to make these very simple dishes after spending last night gushing over Rich Roll and Julie Piatt's The Plantpower Way. Is it just me, or have vegan cookbooks massively improved in production, photography, and design recently?

Fancy cookbooks are all over the place; our local cookbook store, Omnivore Books,  has tons of gorgeous exemplars. But I think that in vegan cuisine this trend is a conscious effort to counter an opinion that may still prevail among some meat eaters--namely, that veganism is ascetic, joyless and prohibitive, and that we don't enjoy our food. Which is why I'm noticing beautifully-photographed and conceptualized books devoted to the pleasures of veganism.

The Plantpower Way is a classic example. It's essentially a coffee-table cookbook full of pictures of Rich Roll, the lawyer-turned-ultra-athlete, and his very good looking family (gorgeous yogini wife and four exceedingly handsome teenagers.) The book is so saturated with images of these folks' beautiful house, great clothes, and fantastic food, that it gave me the uncomfortable feeling that these folks' happy family life is a sex scandal waiting to happen. :) If you have a cynical bone in your body, you have to ask yourself whether these folks are always as happy and brimming with vitality as they are in the photos (and whether collaborating with their teenagers on such a nutritious diet is always successful). But if you are willing to suspend your disbelief a bit and engage in the fantasy lifestyle of the Rich and Famous, these folks are the poster children for happy, healthy vegans. The recipes are also pretty great, and despite the elaborate photographic appeal not all that cumbersome, if you have a good blender and food processor. The text is all about optimizing nutrition, throwing greens in whenever possible, and other principles--occasionally it veers into not-uncommon hooey about "food vibrations"--but the recipes themselves seem very tasty. Even though the book admonishes us to make our blends (smoothies) more about vegetables than fruit, and to eschew the nut milks, the recipes themselves don't feel masochistically healthy, have a healthy share of fruit and other yummy ingredients, and there's a whole chapter on latte coffees and teas that features abundant nut milks. I should mention that these folks have a mysterious aversion to onions and garlic, presumably to make their meals more palatable to kids, but I grew up eating tons of onions and garlic in the Middle East as a kid and am surrounded by children who love both. But what do I know? Your pleasure in this book depends on how fantasy-prone you are, or on how much you're willing to "live with your imperfections" (as these perfect folks instruct us) and enjoy the recipes without turning green with envy at the time and resources that make this diet possible.

The Plantpower Way is not the first exemplar of this trend, of course. One of the first cookbooks I bought last year was Pure Vegan, which does not feature fancy characters but does have luxurious, hedonistic recipes. The sweets and desserts section is particularly marvelous, and I've made the olive oil and pistachio cake from this book with great success (even neater if you bake it in a bundt pan!). On the health-hedonism spectrum, I'd say this book falls toward the latter end. Some of the recipes are elaborate and involved, but some only seem so because of the gorgeous photography. There's not a ton of information here, but it is certainly an inspiringly beautiful book that I like to leaf through when I plan a party or something of that ilk.

Then, of course, there's The Oh She Glows Cookbook, which evolved from the famously beloved blog of the same name. As with the Plantpower Way, the book features beautiful people living in a beautiful home, exquisitely photographed cooking and enjoying beautiful food (according to the blog, there's now a baby in the mix, also!). This one also promises to be fairly hedonistic, and there's a good mix between elaborate and simple recipes. There are also some practical make-ahead solutions, which are far less fancy-schmancy in terms of preparation than the excellent photography would suggest. And again, the sweets and desserts section is interesting and useful, at least to those of us that still indulge in added sugars once in a while.

Finally, no round-up of fantasy vegan publications is complete without Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet and her lifestyle blog, The Kind Life. This book is an intro to veganism, full of thoughts from Silverstone, who talks about being a celebrity invested in a cause that is near and dear to her heart. There are some photos (beautiful people, beautiful home, beautiful food...) but the recipes are not a big part of it. It's more of an introductory text for folks for whom Silverstone might open the door to compassionate eating and living. The website is full of sweets, baked goods, and hedonistic recreations of non-vegan foods--made with healthy ingredients and sometimes credited to other vegan cooks. A nice transition, perhaps, for new vegans.

I enjoy these books mostly as visual inspiration, but I find the humorous and down-to-earth work of Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and the practicality and pioneering inventiveness of Miyoko Schinner, more useful on an everyday basis. And, of course, my beloved classic by Phyllis Glazer is at this point the foundation of my cooking style. I'm probably going to continue inventing my own recipes, but looking at the pretty photos for inspiration and presentation.

Three Simple Salads

I woke up in the mood for something simple and nostalgic for lunch and dinner. My grandma and I talk on the phone every day, and her stories about her family reminded me of the salads she used to make for us when I was little. They are a mix of Russian and Egyptian cuisine, simple and flavorful.

The bottom 50% of the plate is filled with a simple vegetable salad with romaine, raw zucchini matchsticks, cherry tomatoes, red onions, parsley, and a very simple dressing: 1tsp mustard and 1tsp apple juice (I made an enormous bowl and ate it all up; this is just the remainder).

In the top right corner is a bean salad, made from the leftover Christmas lima beans:

1/2 onion, thinly sliced
3 cups cooked beans
olive oil
salt and pepper

Caramelize the onion in a bit of olive oil. Meanwhile, place the three-or-so cups of leftover cooked beans, with a tablespoon of olive oil, into the food processor. Add salt and pepper. After processing it for a few moments, add half of the caramelized onions and process again to the desired consistency (I like it a bit chunky), and finally mix it with the remaining onions and placed in the fridge.

And in the top left corner is a quick potato salad. I'm not as pro-potato as I was when my metabolism was faster, but I still like it a lot, so this is a special treat.

4 medium-sized potatoes
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
big handful parsley
big handful other herbs (chives, green onion, oregano, thyme)
3 dill pickles
1 tbsp Just Mayo or Vegenaise
salt and pepper to taste

Microwave, bake, steam, or boil the potatoes until soft, then dice them up (my grandma always peeled them, but I never do). Place in a mixing bowl and add a very thinly sliced 1/2 onion, and the thinly sliced parsley and other herbs. Add the pickles, thinly diced, and mix with vegenaise, salt and pepper.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Orzo with Vegetables

When I was a kid, one of my favorite comfort foods was "ptitim", otherwise known as orzo or by the misleading name "Israeli couscous". This short and springy wheat pasta is unrelated to the original semolina couscous, and actually has an interesting recession-era history. In the 1950s, during the age of austerity in Israel, Prime Minister David Ben Guryon ordered the Osem factory to come up with a cheap alternative to rice. Ptitim came to be known as "Ben Guryon rice." They are now manufactured in various shapes.

Here, sometimes people cook them like pasta--boiling in a lot of water, then draining--but that's not the best method, I think. This basic recipe is pretty easy, but today I dressed it up with lots of wonderful vegetables straight out of our CSA box. Here's what I made:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
3 carrots (I used one purple, one orange, and one pale yellow)
1 summer squash
5 mushrooms
1 cup whole grain orzo
1 cup boiling water
1 tbsp blackened rub
1 handful fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in a small pot (and keep the lid nearby). Thinly chop carrots, onion, squash, and slice mushrooms. Saute onions until translucent, then add other vegetables and orzo. Cook in olive oil for about 2-3 minutes, or until the orzo begins to be a bit golden. Then, add the water and the blackened rub, lower the heat and cover the pot. Cook for about 10-15 minutes or until all water is absorbed; if water is absorbed and orzo is still a bit too al-dente-ish for you, add more water and cook a few more minutes. When all water is absorbed, fluff up with a fork, then put the lid back on for a couple of minutes. Serve with fresh parsley sprinkled on top.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Christmas Lima Beans

This evening we ate Christmas Lima Beans, toasted with lemon juice and massaged kale (with olive oil) and lightly seasoned with a teaspoon of Pike Market dipping herbs. We also had a large platter of crudités with tahini and sliced, roasted potatoes.

The reason I mention this very simple but delicious meal is that I keep encountering vegan cookbooks that call for super complicated dishes that try to recreate, in a healthy/compassionate form, convenience food with animal ingredients. It's nice to eat that way once in a while--I made the mac-and-cheese pretty recently and it was yummy--but the bottom line is that, regardless of your eating regime, eating more simply and relying mostly on vegetables and fruit is a good idea.

I also mention this because there are many, many kinds of interesting and delicious beans in the world, and they are so flavorful that they don't require much fuss to make a good meal.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Terrific Vegetable Soup

I just made a big pot of wonderful vegetable soup. For some reason, the combination of vegetables yielded a gentle, fragrant soup, perfect for a cold day.

2 leeks
4 Celery Stalks
2 large zucchini
8 mushrooms (I used brown cap mushrooms)
2 medium-sized potatoes
2 tbsp hawayej mix
2 tbsp dried, ground vegetables

Slice everything thinly, cover with water, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 45 mins or longer.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Stunningly Wonderful Carrot Soup

I've just made a simple and marvelous carrot soup! I'm not usually fond of pureed soups, but I had fresh organic carrots and coconut milk and this turned out to be a rousing success. Here goes:

5-6 carrots
1/2 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp baharat
1 tsp cumin
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water or broth

Heat olive oil in smallish pot and add onion, garlic, ginger, baharat, and cumin. Sautee for a few minutes until fragrant. Add carrots, water, and coconut milk. Cook for 10 mins, or until carrots are soft. Puree the entire thing in the blender and eat. Enough for two big bowls or four little ones.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Just for a few days! Casa Corazones blog

Just for the next three days, I'll be blogging about the comings and goings of robins and other small birds on the electrical cables around my backyard. Enjoy!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Middle Eastern Summer Dinner

Our friend Daniel is staying with us for a couple of days, and we were very happy to host him and his son for dinner. It was a nice summery affair--corn on the cob, roasted eggplant with tahini, salad, green beans in tomato sauce, whole wheat pita and hummus--and it was quickly gobbled up before I had a chance to take a photo.

A few fun tips:

  • After lightly cooking fresh corn on the cob, it's nice to give it a rub with a bit of vegan butter (thank you, Miyoko Schinner!) and Dipping Herbs. 
  • Take a big eggplant. Use a knife to make about ten slits in it, and stick half a garlic clove (sliced lengthwise) in each slit. Wrap in foil and bake for 45 mins. The garlic melts inside the eggplant and lends it an amazing flavor. Slice lengthwise and serve whole with tahini on top or on the side. The guests scrape out the eggplant goodness.
  • The wonderful spicy tomato sauce used in khreimeh (a Libyan fish dish) can be used to sautee green beans. Lots of taste, none of the suffering.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Vegan Mac-n-Cheese

I was craving something creamy and delicious this evening and settled on a vegan version of mac-n-cheese. This is not my recipe; I made it using Isa Chandra Moskowitz's classic recipe.

A couple of small substitutions: the pasta is Tolerant lentil pasta (boosting the protein component of the meal) and the seasoning, rather than standard pizza seasoning, is Pike Place dipping herbs. I didn't sautee the onion and garlic in oil before adding to the blender (I'm sure it would have improved the sauce, though not by much, as it was damn tasty as it was). Other than that, the recipe's there and I can attest that the results are, indeed, comforting, creamy, and fantastic.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Squash-Kasha Patties

Still living off the soaked kasha from two days ago! Today, I mixed about a cup of it with a cup of pureed butternut squash, added some herbs and flavorings and grilled patties made of the mixture. It was very tasty, especially served atop mixed sautéed leafy greens, but didn't have as  much of a cohesive structure as I'd hoped. I'll had to add some chia in water next time I make patties.

What with this, the flax crackers, and the lovely vegetable broth slowly brewing in the slow-cooker (from all the stems and ends of the vegetables I used today), I think I'm good, foodwise, for a few days.