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!