Saturday, December 31, 2016

Lentil Pâté - Faux Gras

 Ahoy there! I have a new version of vegan pâté that will knock your socks off. It is packed with protein and has no added oils beyond what's in the walnuts and lentils. Most importantly, it's delicious with fresh vegetables for a nice snack. We served it for holiday dinner and our guest christened it as "faux gras", and so it shall henceforth be known!

2 cups lentils
1 cup walnuts
6 large mushrooms, crimini or similar
1 yellow onion
about 1/3 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp Kala Namak salt, or to taste

Soak lentils overnight until they soften - it'll improve the nutritional content of the dish. The next day, cover with water and cook until soft.

While the lentils are cooking, slice the onion thinly and cut mushrooms into little pieces. place two pans on the stove. In one of them, dry roast the walnuts for about 10 minutes, until they develop deep brown spots. In the other, place about 1 tbsp of vegetable broth and saute the onions for about 10 minutes or until translucent and brownish. Add more broth to prevent sticking to the pan. When onions are soft, add mushrooms and continue cooking until the onion is an appealing shade of brown. Place walnuts and onion-mushroom mixture in food processor and pulse-process until smooth. Add the lentils and pulse until everything is mixed to your desired consistency. Add tomato paste, cumin, and Kala Namak salt to taste and pulse until everything is to your taste. Serve with wedges and sticks of  vegetables, like cucumbers, radishes, carrots, celery sticks, or bell peppers, or use as an unusual and delicious sandwich filling.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Thoughts about Green Smoothies

When I visited my friend Yael in Israel, she made us a green smoothie in an effort to recreate something delicious she'd had at a joint called rebar. It was very tasty and very green, and also, I thought, better than the original.

I like drinking smoothies in the morning, and come up with all kinds of awesome recipes for them, but last night's correspondence with my friend Tzili Paz-Wolk, who has amazing and awesome knowledge about food, made me think about it. Tzili's approach to nutrition is very compassionate and intuitive, and she pushes me to figure out my deep needs and how my food choices address them (effectively or less so). One thing she pointed out yesterday was that my shakes tend to rely on ready-made plant milks, like soy and almond. And she's right: making almond milk from scratch is very easy, especially with my mighty Vitamix, but I seldom do it. The reason for that is that the ready-made stuff is already fortified with vitamins, especially B12, which I always worry about (even though I supplement almost daily with a sublingual spray.) Also, I tend to prefer soymilk or artificially boosted protein milks because I worry that a breakfast with insufficient protein won't sustain me for the rest of my day.

So this morning I'm doing an experiment: I'm having a shake based only on unprocessed ingredients (well, processed in my own blender). The ingredients are:

1/3 of a large cucumber (one Persian cucumber's worth)
2 large celery stalks
handful of cilantro
1 cup spinach leaves
1/4 cup cashews
1 tangerine
1 pear

It's much less sweet than what I'm used to, but that can be cured with a banana or some berries next time. The flavor is fresh and tasty. Maybe I'll make it a point to greenify my shakes more than I have before. Look, even Inti seems to dig it (and took a few sips!)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

_____ of Broccoli Soup

I'm a fairly moderate fan of cream of broccoli soup, but being under the weather today I decided to make a lighter version, with no plant milk or tofu. This one is pureed (hence the creaminess) but includes only vegetables and a few chickpeas. It's a slight variation on the Forks Over Knives recipe.

4 cups broccoli, stems and florets
1/2 cup chickpeas, cooked
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 onion, diced
3 celery stalks, sliced
1/3 a big sweet potato, diced
1 tsp garlic powder
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup hot water
juice from 1 lemon

Separate broccoli stems from florets. Place onion, carrots, celery, sweet potato, and garlic in a pot and add a splash of the vegetable broth. Saute until onion is translucent. Then, add the rest of the broth and the water, lower the heat, and cook for 10 mins.

Add the florets and the chickpeas and cook for another 15 mins, or until the florets are very soft.

Scoop out the solids in batches and puree in the blender with some of the liquid. Return to the pot. Add a bit of hot water if necessary for a soupier consistency. Drizzle the lemon juice in.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

It's been a quiet solstice here, and I've been using new recipes. For some reason, I'm more attracted to simple ingredients these days, as close as possible to their original form, so there are lots of salads and soups and not a lot of mock animal things. In this recipe, too, I resisted adding meat or cheese analogues of any kind, and I think you'll find the simplicity refreshing.

The recipe is adapted from this Forks Over Knives recipe, which, in its turn, comes from Thug Kitchen. I had winter vegetables, rather than the summer ones in the recipe, so I used those, and I added a half-cup of garbanzo beans. I'd love to try the original sometime, but I worked with the bounty I had and the result was spectacular.

1 cup brown rice pasta spirals
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup small broccoli florets
4 asparagus stems, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 leek, sliced into rings
1 red pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans
juice from 1 lemon
1 tsp marjoram
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Start the water for the pasta. In the meantime, heat the oven to 350 degrees and place a silicone mat on a baking sheet. Place the vegetables, the garlic, and the garbanzos on the sheet in one layer. Drizzle with the lemon juice and sprinkle the marjoram. Mix a bit with your hands to make sure the lemon is everywhere. Place in oven for 20-25 mins.

In the meantime, cook the pasta, drain it, and return to the pot. When the vegetables are done, add them to the pasta and drizzle balsamic vinegar. Mix and eat to your heart's content.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Spelt Banana Bread

This evening I tried a new recipe for banana bread, and this one was a huge success. It's sweetened only with the bananas, doesn't have cinnamon or nutmeg, and has chia seeds in lieu of flax. The process was so simple and mess-free, partly because of our new and wonderful hand mixer. Here goes:

Wet Ingredients

4 bananas, mashed
1/3 cup nut milk (I used unsweetened soy)
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients

2 cups whole spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
handful of walnut halves

Heat oven to 350 Farhenheit. Mash bananas well. Add nut milk, coconut oil, chia seeds, and vanilla extract, and whisk or mix well. The chia will absorb some of the liquids and make the whole thing a bit more gel-like. Then, add the dry ingredients and whisk/mix until just combined. Pour into loaf pan and decorate the top with walnut halves. Bake for about 45-50 mins or until pick/fork comes out dry. Let cool for about 30 mins, then take out of pan and place on cooling rack.

Edited to add: You can replace the banana with 1 1/3 cup apple sauce, add a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, and decorate the top with small apple chunks or slices in lieu of walnuts. Comes out fantastic!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Vegan Salade Niçoise

It's been a month of bad news on every possible level: personal losses, professional disappointments, you name it. To keep our spirits up, we're trying to eat healthy and well, and today I was inspired to put a little French elegance into our dinner with this simple version of a salade niçoise. The components of this nice composed salad are easy to make and a breeze to assemble.

I'm not particularly in love with the pre-made fake tuna product we used, Vegan Toona, and next time I make this recipe I'll make a chickpea substitute from scratch (this recipe looks intriguing.) But let's discuss the different components.

Ready-made stuff you'll need include cherry tomatoes (colorful ones are especially fun,) Persian cucumbers, tiny radishes, and good olives (not the nasty canned stuff.)

You'll also need tiny waxy potatoes--we used red and purple--which you can bake for about 20 mins. at 350 degrees, and green beans, which you'll steam or pressure-cook (I do it for 1 minute in the Instant Pot on high pressure) and, when still crunchy, drop immediately into ice water.

Another component is my beloved tofu eggless salad, which I made this time with olives in lieu of pickles, lots of green onion and parsley, and some kala namak salt for extra egginess.

And finally, Toona is sorta good if drenched in fresh lemon juice and mixed with some thinly minced green onions.

After organizing all the components on the plate, drizzle them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Herbs de Provence.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Green Chai Latte

One of the perks and perils of San Francisco is the stream of culinary novelties. A few weeks ago I set aside my skepticism about our continuous chase after "the cool" and went with a colleague to the David Rio chai bar, where I had a lovely cup of steaming chai. Only one of their recipes is vegan (why, when easily all of them could be, and just as tasty?) but they do have a really nice assortment of nut milks, including soy, almond, hazelnut, and macadamia.

Last time I was there, they had some bottled chai for sale, including an intriguing blend of their green tea chai with chia seeds. I've been ruminating on how to make a homemade version, and today's blended treat came out delicious.

I put all the following in the blender:

2 cups vegan milk (this time I used unsweetened Ripple, which has a very bland and forgiving taste, but any nut milk would work just fine)
1 heaping teaspoon Matcha green tea
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
a drizzle of maple syrup, or pitted dates to taste)

After blending and pouring into a tall glass, I mixed in a few chia seeds and waited a few moments for them to expand and absorb the liquid. It was delicious: a creamy-but-refreshing afternoon beverage.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Tropical Pudding

It's been a difficult few weeks for us. A couple of weeks ago we lost our beloved cat, Spade, to a car accident, and we are wrecked with grief. Our grief is, of course,  compounded by the results of the recent U.S. election and our concerns about fascism, bigotry, and authoritarianism on the rise. The most healing thing we've done was spend time at home with Spade's brother, Archer, and newcomer kitten Inti. At first they were a bit suspicious of each other, and so we separated them, but gradually we increased their face time and now they are best buds.

Several lovely friends came to visit us, to alleviate our grief over the loss of Spade and to meet little Inti and see how well he and Archer are getting along. And so, we served vegan fruit pie from Mission Pie, as well as a delectable pumpkin pie which we made based on Minimalist Baker's recipe. We also served a nice tropical pudding, which was exceedingly easy to make: 

1 ripe mango
1 cup pineapple chunks
1 cup silken tofu
1 handful cashews
1 tsp vanilla extract
blueberries for garnish

Pop first four ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour into little ramekins or cups and refrigerate for a couple of hours - the pudding's consistency will improve. Then, decorate with blueberries and serve in the little cups.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Vegan Pâté

Hurrah, my parents are visiting us! It's always a pleasure to have them with us. And it's even more of a pleasure that they have graciously accepted my polite request not to bring meat into the house.

Since my dad is a great meat lover, I bought some vegan bologne and pastrami slices from Tofurkey, which he likes a lot. And I also made him vegan pâté, which he has declared super tasty. The preparation is very very simple, but you'll need a lot of patience, because the more you brown and caramelize the ingredients, the tastier the final result will be. Here goes:

Vegan Pâté

1 cup walnuts
2 large or 3 small zucchini
2 onions
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp pink salt (or other salt; this one gives the dish a richer, eggy taste.)

Heat up olive oil in pan. As it heats, thinly slice up onions, and add the slices to the pan. On medium heat, toss the onions about with a wooden spoon until they are very brown and very done (translucent or beige doesn't cut it in this recipe.) This may require quite a bit of patience, but it's worth it! As the onions are cooking (and in between tossing them), chop up the zucchini into small cubes or slices. When the onions are ready, add the zucchini and continue tossing both ingredients together, until zucchini becomes very soft and a bit brown. Remove the mix from the pan, place in a bowl, and let cool.

Meanwhile, place walnuts in pan (you can add a bit of olive oil if you wish, but the pan will be rather oily from the caramelizing. Toss the onions on high heat for a couple of minutes, then decrease the heat and continue tossing them until they roast well and are dark brown.

Place the walnuts in the food processor and process until you have thin nut crumbs. Then, add the onion-zucchini mixture, tomato sauce, cumin seeds, and pink salt, and continue processing (pulsing helps) until completely smooth.

This is absolutely delicious as sandwich filling, especially if you add fresh tomato and cucumber slices.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Comforting Stew

This thing is a real marvel on days in which you need some warm and hearty nourishment--spiritual, emotional, you name it! This thing hugs you from the inside when you feel like you need a nice, loving, kind hug. We made it with homemade seitan sausages, but I figure any fake meat will work. It tasted so rich and wonderful.

2 large carrots
1 large zucchini
2 large or 3 small Russet potatoes
1 white or yellow onion
1 seitan sausage, the size of a hot dog
1 cup tomato juice
1 heaped tablespoon ras-el-hanout
1 tsp olive oil
a few drops of Bragg's liquid aminos

Heat up olive oil in a pan and slice up the seitan sausage and half the onion. Brown the sausage and onion, and add a bit of Bragg's to flavor.

When that's done, cut all other veg into cubes. Place in slow cooker or in Instant Pot (my beloved pressure cooker) and add the browned sausage and onion. Add tomato juice and, if you're worried it might be too dry, add some water. Slow cook on high for about 5-7 hours, or in the Instant Pot on high pressure for 45 minutes. Bon appetit, and if you need a hug--here's one, from Mission Terrace straight to you.

Monday, July 25, 2016


A big upside of vegan cheesemongering is that it's possible to recreate fabulous cheesy dishes. They taste so much like the original, it's like sorcery! This was my first venture into phyllo dough territory--hence the less-than-perfect presentation. But the dish itself was tasty and filling, and also healthy--full of spinach. It's a hefty project, so set aside some time to play with this.

Phase 1: The Preparing of the Dough

1 package whole wheat phyllo
parchment paper
damp paper towels
3 tbsp vegan butter or olive oil
3 bay leaves

Defrost the phyllo. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on your work area. Slowly and carefully unroll the phyllo. Place some damp paper towels on the rolled dough leaves.

In a little pan, heat up oil or butter with bay leaves, until aromatic (and, in the butter case, melted.)

Phase 2: The Preparing of the Filling

1 tsp olive oil
1 pound spinach, chopped
1 tbsp herbs de provence
1 tbsp sage
1 tbsp oregano
1 large handful chopped green onion - white and green parts
1/2 cup almond feta
4 tbsp flax seeds
10 tbsp water
juice from 1 lemon + some lemon zest

Grind flax seeds and mix with water. Set aside.
In a large pan, heat up olive oil and add herbs de provence, sage, oregano, and green onion. When the herbs are fragrant, add chopped spinach and move it around the pan until it wilts and softens. Turn off the heat.
When the spinach is no longer piping hot, mash feta into flax mixture and add to spinach. Mix well. Add lemon and lemon zest for a last quick mix.

Phase 3: Assembly

With a little rubber brush, oil a 9x13 lasagna pan.
Place the top phyllo leaf in the pan, with its sides draping over the pan. Dip brush in oil/butter and lightly oil the leaf. Place a second leaf on top, also draping over pan. Lightly brush that one as well with oil. Repeat until you have about 6 layers.

Spoon spinach mixture over the leaves and flatten with a spatula. Then, fold the draping corners of the dough over the mixture.

Place a phyllo leaf on top of the mixture, carefully tucking its corners around the mix. Lightly brush its top with oil. Place a second leaf on top, also brushing with oil. Repeat until you have 6-8 layers. End with a light brush of oil.

Phase 4: Bakeage 

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 mins, or until top layers are golden and crumbly.

Zchug Jack

My vegan cheesemongering adventures continue! To the left are two new cheeses I made today: on the far left is a new batch of cheddar and on the right, zchug jack.

Zchug is a Yemenite hot pepper paste used with pretty much everything. It's delicious and makes for a neat substitute for jalapeños in this recipe, but you can do what Miyoko Schinner recommends in The Homemade Vegan Pantry and use fresh or canned jalapeños.

Step 1: Culturing

1 cup cashews
1 cup rejuvelac
1 tsp salt

Place in blender, blendblendblend until smooth. Place in container with jar (I use a plastic yogurt container.) Be sure to leave room at the top, because this thing expands like there's no tomorrow when it cultures.

But happily, there *is* a tomorrow, and when you open the container the next morning, see whether the thing has changed. It will unmistakably morph: air bubbles, yeasty scent, expansion, gooey texture.

Step 2: Cookin'

1/2 cup water
1 tbsp agar
the cheese mix from before
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp tapioca

On low heat, simmer 1/2 cup water and 1 tbsp agar in a lidded saucepan. Don't peak for 3-4 mins. Then open lid, and make sure that the agar is bubbling away. When it finishes the bubbling process, scoop in all the gooey cheese mix and whisk well.

At the same time, quickly dissolve 2 tbsp tapioca in 2 tbsp water. Add to mix and whisk.

Mix until the thing becomes stretchy and shiny.

Step 3: Settin'

2 tbsp zchug, jalapeño, or other hot pepper product of your choice

Add zchug to cheese mix and mix well. Then, pour into container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours for the cheese to set.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Melty Cheddar and Mozzarella

I'm super happy to report that the two cheeses I made--the cheddar and the mozzarella--came out delicious. The recipes are both from Miyoko Schinner's The Homemade Vegan Pantry, which is an excellent book to have at home, and which is the source of my almond yogurt and almond feta recipes as well. The cheeses are great on bread (I served them for breakfast to a meat-eating guest and he dug them), and they also respond very well to cooking: we used the cheddar as gnocchi sauce and the mozzarella in little pizzetas.

The process for making these cheeses is almost identical; the only difference is a slight tweak in ingredients.

Step 1: Create Culturing Liquid

For either the cheddar or the mozz, you'll need one cup of culturing liquid. For my feta, I used juice from sauerkraut, which was a nice time saver; this time, I decided to go all DIY and made my own rejuvelac. This is not a bad idea, seeing as it keeps in the fridge for 3-4 weeks, and also as it produces sprouted quinoa, which you can then use to bake this delightful little roll. Follow the instructions in the previous post to produce the sprouted grains and the rejuvelac; strain the grains out to use in the sprouted bread recipe; and measure one cup of the rejuvelac for use in the cheese.

Step 2: Mix and Culture

Blend into a smooth consistency:
1 cup cashews
1 cup rejuvelac/sauerkraut liquid
1 tsp seasalt
nutritional yeast (1 tbsp for mozz, 3 tbsp for cheddar)
light-colored miso (1 tbsp for mozz, 2 tbsp for cheddar)
an optional tbsp of dried onion for the mozz

Pour into a lidded container, place somewhere away from direct sunlight but in room temperature, and wait a day or two.

The mix is ready for the next step when you notice that it's become a bit soufflé-like: puffy, risen, full of air pockets, thicker.

Step 3: Harden

For this you'll need:
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp water
1 tbsp agar flakes
2 tbsp tapioca starch

Place 1/2 cup water and agar flakes in a lidded pot and bring to a simmer over low heat. Keep lid on for about 3-4 minutes. Then, check to see whether the agar has liquified and is bubbling away. It's important to wait a few minutes for this to happen. Once the agar has bubbled away, incorporate your cultured cheese mix into the pot and whisk to perfection. As this cooks a bit, mix the tapioca starch with 2 tbsp water until dissolved and add to the pot. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens some and becomes shiny and stretchy.

Pour cheese into container (I simply rinse the culturing container and use that; Miyoko recommends using glass) and let harden in the fridge for at least four hours before consuming.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sprouted Quinoa Bread

This delightful roll is basically a by-product of making rejuvelac, which is an essential ingredient in cultured cheeses (will post about those soon). Rejuvelac is the leftover liquid from sprouted grains. This roll is a great way to make use of the grains. It's so tasty that it might actually be worthwhile to sprout the grains even if you don't have lofty cheese plans!

Ingredients for one roll (easy to double, triple, or quadruple the recipe):

1/2 cup quinoa
big jug/jar of water
optional: grated coconut, sunflower seeds, nuts, raisins, olives, rosemary, or anything you'd want inside bread

Measure and place quinoa in big jar and fill with water. Using a strainer to help you, change the water three times every 12 hours. When the quinoa grains develop visible tails, fill with clean water, place lid or other cover on jar and leave on counter for about two days.

Carefully strain the liquid (use it for making nut cheese). Place the sprouted quinoa in food processor and process until smooth. If desire, mix with the suggested additions (I did coconut and sunflower seeds and it came out amazing.) Spoon out the quinoa onto a lightly floured baking sheet and form a round little roll, or a loaf, or whatever. Place in oven, bake at 350 degrees (no need to preheat) for 30 mins, then at 325 for about 20 mins more (this phase might be longer if you're making a bigger loaf.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Kelp Noodle Salad

Kelp noodles are so nice to work with! I've posted a couple of recipes that include them here and here, but I think this salad is really wonderful. It's a really nice dinner on a hot day--light and zesty.

1 package kelp noodles
1 large carrot
2 large zucchini
1 package collard greens
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp white wine/whiskey
3 tbsp soy sauce or liquid aminos
1 tbsp salsa
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp chopped ginger
1/2 package extra-firm tofu
2 tbsp raw tahini

There are three steps here, and each of them could produce a separate dish.

Collard Greens

Chop coarsely and sauté in olive oil. When soft, add booze and lemon juice and sauté for another couple of minutes.

Baked Tofu

Heat up the oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Make the marinade with salsa, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and some water, make cubes out of the tofu, and let them rest in the marinade for half an hour. Then, bake the tofus. Save the marinade.

Assembling the salad

Get kelp noodles out of package and wash with water. Place in big salad bowl. Thinly slice or spiralize carrots and zucchini, and add. Mix tahini with marinade to produce a dressing, pour over noodles and veg and stir well. Add collard greens and tofu cubes and stir again, until just combined. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Tofu Halloumi

The success of the feta and my tried-and-true tofu cream "uncheese" made me want to try and recreate another cheese favorite - halloumi, the gummy, salty cheese you can bake or grill to perfection. Turns out someone has already thought about this - the awesome Nada from One Arab Vegan has a great recipe! I made a few modifications to prepare it as follows:

Half a block of extra firm tofu--Hodo Soy extra-firm has the perfect consistency for this dish. It's firm and springy, just like the cheese, and requires very little squeezing.
1-2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1-2 tsp of sea salt (halloumi is a fairly salty cheese, but we found it a bit too salty for our taste, though after grilling it the flavors worked really well)
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp dried oregano (Nada's original recipe calls for dried mint, which would've been preferable, but oregano was a tasty substitute)
1/2 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Press the tofu (though not essential for Hodo Soy). Mix up all other ingredients in a little bowl into a thick, pasty marinade. Slice tofu to 1/8-1/4 inch slices. Layer the slices in a shallow dish and rub the marinade on both sides of each slice. Leave for 20 mins to absorb the flavors.

Nada uses a waffle iron to cook them, but I don't have one. Fortunately, years ago, before I knew anything about cooking, my mom gifted me this amazing grilling pan, and I suspect any pan or griddle will do. Grill the slices for about 5 mins on each side, and you're good to go.

Another idea I had was to do cubes in lieu of slices and put them on mediterranean-style skewers with mushrooms and tomatoes. I'll do that for my next bbq party!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Banana-Peach Cake

Another one of our contributions to the upcoming baroque workshop!

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 mashed banana
3 finely diced ripe peaches
2 tbsp agave syrup
1 tbsp flax seeds
3 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup almond-cashew yogurt (or other vegan yogurt.)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grind flax seeds and mix with water in a little cup to create a vegan "egg". Then mix first five ingredients in a bowl. Combine all other ingredients in another bowl, and then add wet ingredients to dry ingredient, mixing until fully combined. Pour mix into bundt pan or loaf-sized pan. Bake for about an hour, or until a fork inserted into the middle comes out dry.

Cantaloupe-Ginger Mini-Cakes

Next week we'll participate in a baroque music workshop, and participants have been invited to contribute homemade baked goods to our "sherry hours" in the afternoon.

Enter cantaloupe-ginger mini-cakes!

I got this recipe from Sangeetha's blog Spicy Treats, with a few small changes.

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cup pureed cantaloupe
2 tbsp agave syrup
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp coconut flakes

Heat up oven to 375 degrees and oil a muffin pan. Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, and wet ingredients in the other. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix till combined. Add sunflower seeds and coconut flakes and mix until just combined, fill muffin holes, and bake for about 20 mins or until fork inserted into middle of cakes comes out clean. Wait until the cakes cool to invert and place on drying rack.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My Inaugural Pizza: Whole Wheat/Millet Crust

I made my inaugural pizza! It was delicious! I had homemade tomato sauce that I made for the previous day's ravioli, and a fresh batch of Miyoko's Kitchen vegan mozzarella. The crust was improvised (with some changes from Bobby Flay's basic recipe) and rolled very thin, and the toppings are whatever I had left in the fridge before getting the delivery from Albert & Eve today.

The result was great, but I think in future pizzas I'll lay off the salt, either partly or completely, and add a teaspoon of sugar. The salt, I'm told, prevents the yeast from doing their thing to the dough, and it definitely didn't double in size as I had hoped. Part of it might have been the whole grain substitution, but just in case, I'd make a less salty dough.


2 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 cups millet flour
1 envelope instant dry yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups water, 110 degrees F
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons

Combine the bread flour, sugar, yeast and kosher salt in a bowl and mix with a whisk. Gradually add the water and 2 tablespoons of the oil and continue mixing--and then kneading--until the dough forms into a nice firm ball.

Grease a large bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, add the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm area to let it rise, about 1 hour. Divide into two pieces; freeze one for the pizza of the future and let the other one sit for 10 mins.


3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 small container Pomi or similar tomato product
small handful dry oregano
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat up olive oil in wok and add cloves and onion. Sautee until golden and translucent. Add tomato product and spices, and cook until it reaches desired consistency and taste.


Roll dough very thinly onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Coat with sauce, then add slices of vegan mozzarella and toppings. This version included Tofurky peppered slices, a fresh asparagus (it'll bake in the oven) and fresh basil. Since we've received our weekly delivery, and it includes curly kale, leeks, and Russet potatoes, as well as Hodo Soy Tofu, the next batch will be even better! Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 15 mins, or until the crust is golden in the edges.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Mushrooms Stuffed with Polenta and Pesto

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

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

The Making of the Pesto

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

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

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

The making of the Polenta 

For this, you'll need:

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

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

The Stuffing and Refrigerating of the Mushrooms

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

The Grilling of the Mushrooms

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

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Pasta Bake

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

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

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

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Spiralized Zucchini Pasta with Tomato-Walnut Pesto

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

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

Two servings:

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 18, 2016

Soy Ice Green Tea

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

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

Saturday, April 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 08, 2016

Quince Galore!

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Nan!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ethiopian Feast

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

Or a hundred. It was so good!

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

Clockwise, from top left:

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

Really, really, REALLY good.

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

When Life Hands You Lemons...

... halve them, remove as many seeds as you can without being overly paranoid about it, chop them into bits your food processor can handle, and place them in the food processor with salt and sumac. The ratio is about 1 tbsp each for every batch of six lemons. Process until you get a sort of chunky paste. Pack in jars and drizzle some olive oil on top. Leave to ferment for a week. What you get is a wonderful pickled lemon paste, which works beautifully as a sandwich filler, salad dressing, an original and tasty avocado topping, a nice complement to grains and beans,  and, with the addition of basil leaves, a very lemony and special pesto.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Double! Greens with Mushrooms and Sausage and Kasha with Onions and Carrots

More rain is coming our way, and even though my original plan was to have a big salad for lunch, I decided to get my vegetables cooked and warm today. Enter two simple and easy dishes: greens with mushrooms and sausage, and kasha with onions and carrots.

The former dish is a good way to get a whole package of chard and a whole package of collard greens into you, with a lot of flavor.

The latter dish is something that a deli at Kibbutz Sha'ar Ha'amakim makes and my mom frequently buys. I managed to recreate the original flavor and it made me happy.

Greens with Mushrooms and Sausage

1 package chard
1 package collard greens
1 Field Roast sausage (or any vegan meat)
1 cup maitake mushrooms
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp olive oil
a splash of whiskey
a splash of Bragg's Liquid Aminos

Heat up olive oil in a wok. Chop garlic into small pieces and add to pan, then add mushrooms. After about a minute, slice up the vegan sausage and add to the pan. Keep sautéing until sausage is browned. Then, chop up all vegetables and add to pan. Splash in some whiskey and Bragg's. Cook and stir until greens start wilting (do not overcook.)

Kasha with Onions and Carrots

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 carrots, chopped into little cubes or grated
1 tbsp dried vegetables, bouillon, or onion soup powder
1 cup buckwheat
2 cups boiling water
salt to taste

Heat up olive oil in a smallish pot. Add onion, garlic, and carrots, and whirl around until fragrant (no need to caramelize the onions, though I'm sure that would be tasty.) Add buckwheat and whirl around some more to toast. Then, add water, soup base, and some salt if desired, and cook for 10-15 mins or until all the water absorbs. Fluff up with a fork and let sit for a few minutes in pot before serving.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Baked Tofu

In my grad school days, I used to eat sometimes at a little joint on Bancroft Avenue that served what Chad and I affectionately referred to as "Kentucky Fried Tofu": crispy, spicy tofu cubes as a snack. It was very tasty and I've wanted to reproduce it ever since, preferably without the deep frying.

Today I worked quietly at home, and the rain outside (thank you, El Niño, from our vegetable garden!) made me want to have some warm snacks. I had a giant bowl of salad for lunch, followed by kale chips and oven fries, and am cooking a lovely chili on which I shall report later today. But for an extra snack, I'm making baked tofu, and my premature tasting suggests that this perfectly and deliciously replicates the crispness and joy of Kentucky Fried Tofu--without a drop of oil.

1 package extra-firm tofu
1 cup soy sauce, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, or a combination of both
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch ginger chunk, minced
a spritz of liquid smoke
a spritz of Sriracha
1 tbsp cornstarch

Remove tofu from packaging and place on a plate or in a bowl. Place a cutting board, or plate, on top of the tofu, and place a heavy object on top of that. Leave for about half an hour.

When you return, the tofu will have drained from some of its liquids. Great! Cut it into cubes (I'm doing about 3/4 inch cubes) and place in a tupperware. Throw in all remaining ingredients (save for the cornstarch) place lid on top of tupperware, give it a good shake, and leave it for 30 mins to absorb the taste. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking sheet.

Now, remove tofu cubes from marinade, toss with cornstarch, and place in one layer, cubes not touching each other, on baking sheet. Bake for about 15 mins, then toss a bit, and bake for another 15 mins. SNACK TIME!

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Vegetable Paella with Seitan

In keeping with my paella craze, the latest experiment includes seitan. The basic instructions for the paella are here, but the ingredients were a tad different:

3 garlic cloves
4 green onion sprigs, both white and green parts
a palm-sized chunk of seitan (mine is homemade--Italian spice flavored--but any type will do)
2 big tomatoes
1 cup red kale bits
1/2 cup green peas

The key with the seitan is to brown it well with the garlic and green onions before adding the rice and the vegetables. I also used a minestrone-flavored broth for this one, and it turned out marvelous--it really brought out the saffron flavor.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Orange-Blueberry Cake

In the last few weeks, our beloved farmers at Albert and Eve have sent us lots of phenomenal citrus fruit. I wanted to bake a whole-wheat treat for us, and after looking at a few recipes online decided to invent my own. It came out wonderful: moist, tangy, not too sweet--a perfect cake. I ate a slice by itself, but if you'd like it richer, you can drizzle the cashew-orange glaze I invented in December.

2 navel oranges
1/3 cup Earth Balance
2 tbsp apricot jam
1 tbsp agave syrup
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

Heat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Peel oranges and place in food processor. Process until you have a smooth pulp. Add the Earth Balance, jam, agave, vinegar, and vanilla. Process until smooth. Then, mix in ground flax seeds and let sit for a few minutes.

Then, transfer to bowl. Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Finally, add blueberries and briefly combine.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a fork inserted into the cake comes out clean and dry. Let cool for about ten minutes before inverting, and even longer before slicing. Serve with fresh blueberries and/or cashew orange glaze.

Addendum: It occurs to me that zesting some of the orange peel into the mix would have made this even more delicious. Give it a try!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tofu Ricotta

We spent last weekend being spoiled at the Stanford Inn by the Sea and eating marvelous vegan cuisine at Ravens Restaurant. One of their signature dishes is a ravioli stuffed with tofu ricotta. We ate that dish with delight over the weekend, and were thrilled to see the recipe for this magical ricotta in their newly published cookbook. I just made two cups of it, which I plan to use in a lasagna I'm serving tomorrow to my students, and it came out like a dream:

14oz firm tofu (a whole standard package)
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
big handful of basil leaves
5 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 tbsp nutritional yeast

Place all ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth. Do not overprocess, because it will become watery. Use within three days.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Farinata de Ceci

This easy, savory chickpea flour pie is a great thing to eat and serve hot right out of the pan, and it's festive enough to entertain guests. If you have a rosemary bush at home, this is the time to use it! The recipe comes from Chloe Coscarelli's Italian cook book.

2 cups warm water
1.5 cups chickpea flour
3 tbsp olive oil, plus more for pan
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh rosemary
fresh ground black pepper

Mix water and flour in a bowl and let rest for 2 hours.
When ready, preheat oven to 500F. Place a round iron skillet in the oven to warm for 10 mins.

Meanwhile, skim foam off chickpea mix, add oil, salt and rosemary. Remove hot iron skillet from oven, add a bit of oil and swirl around to grease. Carefully pour batter into pan and pop back into oven for about 25 mins, or until lightly browned and crisp. Run a knife around the edges and unmold. Slice up and serve warm.

The leftovers, toasted in the oven the next day, are particularly wonderful with a bit of tomato sauce and vegan mozzarella!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Food Forests and Other Bright Futures for the Planet

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Starhawk's new book, City of Refuge. I was very much looking forward to it, being a long-time fan of Walking to Mercury and The Fifth Sacred Thing.  And it was an overall enjoyable experience: familiar characters experiencing new adventures. The two later novels in the chronology are set in the 2040s, after an ecological disaster affects California, splitting it into a Northern utopia-in-recovery and a Southern patriarchal theocracy. The novels interrogate the possibilities that these futures offer by incorporating many elements of present-life Bay Area delights and keeping the environmental stuff as real as possible: San Francisco ("Califia") is a city of water, in which people shuttle around in gondolas on the river, a-la The Blue Greenway. 

But there is one aspect of the new book that made me cringe with discomfort. One of my favorite ecofeminist heroes and authors got it wrong--very wrong--with regard to food.

The citizens of Califia eat very well, and their concoctions, as well as Bay Area booze, are extensively described in the book, especially contrasted to the faux-nutrition "chips" and "sweeties" consumed by the Southerners. Indeed, echoing and crystallizing much of the recent scholarship on our consumption of faux foods, the Southerners have a hard time adjusting to the real food in the north. The book made me feel like Starhawk conjured her favorite meals from the present and planted them in a future in which people's agricultural ingenuity strives the overcome the effects of an ecological horror. Much time is spent in the book on the ways in which my beloved heroes, Madrone and Bird, start their "city of refuge" in the South by starting agricultural production, and the (real) magic of compost is explored in depth.

But what is on the menu in Califia? Much to my surprise, quite a lot of meat, cheese, and eggs, sometimes (but not often) hailed as "humanely raised." Our heroes are served beef and chicken and lamb, eat honey by the bushels, and enjoy dairy with quite some frequency. Oh, there are vegans, of course, but that's briefly described as a "personal choice", with an "option" to order a chickpea-quinoa stew at a restaurant, side by side with the default meat choices.

Not only is this a deeply upsetting culinary repertoire for a presumed utopia, but it's also massively unrealistic, because one has got to ask oneself--where the heck do they even raise all these animals?

Surely, Starhawk must be aware of the massive contribution of animal pasture areas and feedlots to the deforestation and corruption of the earth. Surely she knows that every burger we eat is the equivalent of months of showering. Surely she's heard of waste and manure lagoons covering vast areas and endangering our health. As an avid permaculturist, surely she knows that vegan options are possible, realistic, and cost-effective. In a future affected by climate change, veganism will not be a "personal choice"--it will be a fact of life for everyone.

And, where are all these mysterious cows, lambs, and chickens raised? Where do the chickens lay their eggs? Where are the utopian slaughterhouses? Or do we just not like to talk about the fact that meat comes from animals?

And that's before we even discuss the cruelty involved in the gratuitous raising and killing of animals for our own consumption, which doesn't even begin to be portrayed as being at odds with the deeply Pagan, one-with-nature vibe of Califia. People pray over their food and give thanks to the animals--to the Goddess, to spirit, to whatever--which may make them feel great and a part of the cycle of life, but all these spiritual feel-good florid incantations don't actually affect the animal's fate one bit. For more on the "but I express gratitude for my wild salmon" sensibility and its hypocrisy, read Sherry Colb's excellent Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger?, focusing on the chapter on Native Americans.

Actually, without much effort one could envision a Northern Californian utopia just by looking at one marvelous permacultural initiative: the food forest. Here are several examples of food forests around the world, and for the Hebrew readers among you here's a great story about the new one in Israel. The animals in food forests aren't "raised": they LIVE there. Birds nest in the trees, rodents run around collecting nuts, etc. To the extent that we benefit from their presence there, it's as we would from any naturally-occurring phenomenon.

A world in which all the territories formerly devoted to animal farming are repurposed as food forests and homes for wild animals? Now THAT's what I would consider a really inspiring utopia.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Whole Roasted Cauliflower

I loved cauliflower before it was cool.

Seriously: it was one of my favorite vegetable as a child. My grandma would put it, finely minced, in soups; my mom would steam florets for me to snack on. I even liked it sliced raw in salads.

Turns out I was ahead of the curve. Cauliflower is the new craze, and since it's so tasty and healthy, I encourage you to get on the bandwagon quickly. This salad is wonderful, and received rave reviews from our family visitors, but today I made a whole roasted cauliflower. Huge success!

1 cauliflower
salt, pepper
1 tsp olive oil

Heat the oven to about 450 Fahrenheit. Find a pot that can fit the entire cauliflower. Then, place it stem-side-up inside the pot and add water almost to cover. Bring to a boil, add about 1 tbsp salt, and then reduce the heat to simmer for about 10-15 mins, or until the cauliflower is soft, but not crumbling.

Remove cauliflower from pot and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste. Roast until the outer florets are a dark golden brown and snack to your heart's delight.

Please do not discard the flavorful, vitamin-rich cooking water--use it instead as a soup base!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Soup Tip: Mashed White Beans

Last night, by chance, I came across a really neat soup-thickening tip. I wanted to make a vegetable soup, and hoped to add some bean power to it, but didn't have any cooked, thawed beans, and cooking some would take a long time. Happily, I had about a half-pint of the white bean spread my grandma used to make, and I just added it to the soup pot. The result: a rich, hearty soup, with just the hint of fragrant beans and lots of vegetables. It pays off to make a huge amount of the bean spread and then use part of it as soup base. Here are instructions for making the bean spread and for using it in soup:

2-3 cups white beans
1 onion
a bit of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Soak beans overnight, or in boiling water for an hour. Then cook until tender. While the beans are cooking, slice and caramelize the entire onion in a bit of olive oil. Transfer beans to blender with half of the caramelized onion and some of the cooking water (enough to reach the desired consistency, which is hummus-like.) Blend till smooth, then transfer to container, salt and pepper to taste, and mix in the remaining half onion. Good in sandwiches, tortillas, as a standalone dish for a multi-dish lunch, etc.

For the soup, I used:

1 package red chard, coarsely chopped
1 package kale, coarsely chopped
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 big carrots, cubed
1/2 onion
3 cloves garlic
pinch of chili
pinch of oregano
pinch of sage
1 cup white bean spread

Place all vegetables in soup pot and cover with water. Mix in 1 cup of white bean spread. Cook until vegetables are tender. yum!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

My Inaugural Paella

After being served this wonderful paella a couple of weeks ago, I could not wait to start experimenting with my own. Despite the wonderfulness of having an enormous pan for guests, I figured we'd get more mileage out of a smaller pan, and fortunately La Paella has pans of any size you can think of. And they deliver!

The paella I made is very similar to the one my friend served me, except for a few changes: I halved the recipe because of the differently-sized pan and added a half-cup of chickpeas. I used pre-soaked, short-grain brown rice to improve nutrition (the taste was not compromised in the least). Since I had no artichokes, I topped it with lightly steamed baby courgettes (aren't they pretty?). And, I also sauteed king oyster mushrooms, which have the look and texture of calamari. It was stunningly delicious and I look forward to inventing more variations.

In other news, I happened upon an estate sale in my neighborhood. Beyond the joys of all the neighbors rummaging through furniture and appliances and chatting excitedly, I was chuffed to find ten beautiful porcelain teacups with botanicals with matching saucers--not a set, each different, but incredibly cute. The whole lot, gold leaf and roses and pansies and all, cost me $20. I look forward to hosting a mad hatter party with vegan pastries soon!

Friday, January 15, 2016


It's polenta. With kale. And pesto. And a bit of vegan butter and salt. What's not to like?

1 bundle dino kale
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
2 cups water
2 tbsp pesto
1-2 tsp vegan butter
salt to taste

Start by placing all the kale in the food processor and process fairly thoroughly.

Then, read this. Apparently, a lot of the polenta punctiliousness out there is completely unnecessary. No need for boiling water, constant stirring, and the like.

Place two cups of water in a wok over medium heat. Gradually whisk in polenta and processed kale. Whisk until the polenta begins to thicken, then reduce the heat to very low. Add pesto and stir every few minutes, until polenta thickens more and separates from the sides of the wok. That means it's nearly done, and it's time to stir in some vegan butter (I'm using this wonderful new thing, but Earth Balance would work just fine) and sprinkle a bit of salt. When the polenta reaches the desired consistency, you're done!

If you want the polenta to harden so it can be beautifully sliced, you can put it in a serving dish (like the one I have above) and set it aside for a bit, or put it in the oven with the light on. After about 10-15 minutes you can slice beautiful polenta triangles or rectangles. We ate this with a nice green salad and some simply cooked pinto beans.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Restaurant Recommendation: Herban Fix in Atlanta, GA

The meal I had today at Herban Fix, a vegan chef restaurant in Atlanta, has to rank as one of the most memorable meals I ate in my entire life. Everything was delicious, prepared with incredible care and creativity, and served with grace and kindness in a large but cozy room decorated in impeccable taste.

We started with two appetizers. The sweet pea ravioli is served in a wonderful, slightly spicy sauce, with some edamame, and stuffed with tender pea shoots and other wonderful flavors. And the mock duck, which appears to be made of yuba (but I'm not sure) is served in little steamed buns with fresh vegetables, alongside a lovely plum sauce. 

For our main courses, we had crispy mushrooms, in an airy-light tempura batter, atop some wilted spinach, and an incredible pom-pom mushroom steak served on baby bok choy in a gorgeous and not-too-heavy mushroom gravy.

And for dessert, we were served a strawberry-coffee cake. It was very tasty, not to mention beautiful, topped with nice cashew cream, and the only reason I wish I hadn't ordered it is that the entrees were so good that I wish I'd stuffed my face with another one!

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Vegetable Paella

After a long hosting stint, it was nice to be invited to have dinner with friends. It was a good, avid-meat-eating friend's birthday, and the meal was to be cooked by his wife, whose cuisine leans a lot on her Argentinian heritage. I asked what to bring, and our host said she was planning on tapas and paella. I assumed the paella would be roaming with little creatures that are far more glorious dancing in the water than killed and cooked in rice, and so made stuffed mushrooms and hummus and brought those with me in addition to the wine.

I underestimated my friends' kindness and consideration. Our host walked us through the tapas; there were charcuterie and cheese and shrimp, but also olives, mushrooms, marcona almonds and a nice bread. And then the piece-de-resistance was brought out: a vegan paella, chock full of colorful bell peppers and decorated with artichoke globes! What an enjoyable meal. For dessert, she made tiramisu, but quietly placed a little platter of fresh apple slices and nuts near us.

Fortunately, our friends were gracious enough to let me photograph the gorgeous piece-de-resistance and give me the recipe (from the book Paella Paella). You'll need a large paella pan - characterized by its size and flat base

1/4 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, minced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups arborio rice (if I were to make this at home, I'd probably switch to short-grain brown rice, like sukoyaka genmai, and increase the broth amount to 5-6 cups)
1 small red pepper, cut into strips
1 small yellow pepper, cut into strips
1 small green pepper, cut into strips
4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
2 cups artichoke hearts, tough leaves removed, and quartered
1 lemon

Heat oil in paella pan and saute onion and garlic. Meanwhile, bring broth to a simmer in a separate pot. Pour the rice into the paella pan and saute for 3 minutes. Add peppers and tomatoes and saute for an additional 3 minutes. Add the simmering broth to the pan and cook for 20 more minutes, or until almost tender and most liquid has been absorbed (note that you might have to rotate the pan if your burners don't line up under the whole thing). Stir in the peas. Then, sprinkle artichoke hearts with lemon and arrange in an attractive pattern on top of the paella. Continue cooking until tender and all liquid is absorbed.