Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Vegan Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese somehow tasted best in Israel. As kids, we all grew up eating it for breakfast, on a slice of simple bread or with an omelette, or for dinner with some vegetables on the side. To this day, few meals are as Israeli to me as some cottage cheese with a sliced tomato. Thanks to the one and only Noa Shalev and her amazing vegan cheese course (which you absolutely must take), we now have fresh cottage cheese at home, made from tofu and a few other ingredients! Preparation can be very simple or multi-step, depending on whether you rely on homemade yogurt and mayo or purchased ones, but since I always have a batch of homemade yogurt and had Hampton Creek's Just Mayo in the fridge, it was a cinch. This works best with pink Himalayan salt and a touch of lemon juice.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Buddha Bowls

Are buddha bowls all the rage now or have they gone out of fashion? I have no idea, but I do see articles about them all over the place. The nice thing about them is that they constitute a varied, colorful, tasty lunch, made of ingredients that are easy to eat as they are or cook quickly and simply. Moreover, if you keep a bunch of toppings in the fridge, it's easy to mix things up during the week and make variations on the theme.

In the photo you see our toppings from this afternoon: in the left plate, a simple tomato-basil salad, chopped cucumbers and radishes, sliced avocado, and two kinds of pickles--beets and root kimchi. In the right plate, simply baked potatoes and sweet potatoes (which I then cubed and stored in the fridge), zucchini slices and snap peas (which I lightly stir-fried on a dry pan with some garlic powder until the zucchini slices became pleasantly charred) and a bunch of chard that I chopped up and cooked up for five minutes with juice from one lemon.

Add to that some cooked quinoa and some tofu bacon or baked chickpeas and you're in business. It occurs to me that this is an excellent hosting dish, too--just hand people bowls (maybe with the quinoa already layered at the bottom) and ask them to help themselves to whatever toppings they choose.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Shavuot

Check out our awesome Shavuot table! We just finished hosting our Shavuot party, which is apparently not a huge deal in the United States. I suspect there are two reasons: its lack of proximity to a heavily commercialized Christian holiday (this, after all, is how Hanukkah became such a big deal) and its strong ties to the land (it's a harvest holiday.) In kibbutzim and moshavim there's often a nice parade of first fruits of the year (including the babies born that year) and elsewhere in the country people celebrate with a dairy meal. Why dairy? Apparently, the word חלב״ chalav" (milk), in Jewish numerology, adds up to 40, and Moses was on Mount Sinai 40 days.

I took the challenge seriously and put together a holiday party for our friends featuring a whole array of vegan cheeses, which I learned how to make in Noa Shalev's awesome vegan cheese course (you should take it, so cough up the 350 NIS and do it.) A lot of improvisation went into this - my cheese flavors are original inventions, save for the spirulina one, and my raw cashew cheesecakes are variations on the lemon-lavender cake I made a couple of weeks ago following Noa's recipe. This time I made mango-basil cake and strawberry-thyme cake. All I did was replace the flavoring. I glanced at one of my new books, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, to match fruit and herbs, but I find that I already have a pretty good gut feeling about combinations.

Anyway, from bottom to top: green salad with avocado, nectarines, and strawberries, dressed in quince vinegar from Nan at Vermont Quince; spiralized salad of cucumber, carrot, beet, and radish, dressed in a mix of good mustard and Nan's quince salsa; cauliflower ceviche; "chevre" cheeseballs flavored with nigella, chimichurri, za'atar, zchug, and ras-el-hanout; leek-mushroom quiche with chickpea base; vegan lasagna with tofu ricotta: four hard cheeses, flavored with spirulina, turmeric-cumin, miso, and garlic-zchug; breads and crackers; and the aforementioned raw cakes.

A good time was had by all!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mystery Cookies from the Internet: Chickpea-Peanut Butter

Pic courtesy Popsugar
I was lurking idly on Facebook, as one does, when a friend posted this recipe. I immediately hopped off the sofa, hollering "I have these ingredients!" and ran to make a batch of cookies. The nice thing about this recipe is that it is mostly good for you: chickpeas and peanut butter are the basis for the cookie, and it is fairly minimally sweetened. You could decrease the sugar content even further by opting for cocoa nibs and reducing the maple syrup.

I made a few improvements to the original recipe, including an increase of the baking time. They came out fluffy and fantastic.

1 cup chickpeas
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tsp maple syrup (to taste)
1 tsp orange zest
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar, broken into little pieces

Heat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Mix first five ingredients in food processor until creamy. Add dark chocolate and stir until combined. With damp palms, shape little balls and flatten them on cookie sheet. Bake for about 15-20 mins (original recipe says 10, but they were not nearly done by then.) They're still a bit pliable when you get them out and they harden as they cool. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Fresh Salad with Green Beans, Chickpeas, and Macadamia Cheeses

This salad turned out wonderful thanks to its high-quality components: mixed supergreens, pea shoots, cucumber, radish, chickpeas, lightly steamed green beans, and some of the macadamia cheese from a few days ago. Simply dressed with a few drops of balsamic vinegar, it tasted like something you'd expect to find at a French bistro.

Enjoy!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rosewater-Cherry Mini-Pie

The successful cakes from Thursday made me want to try a new recipe along the same lines. When I lived in Jerusalem, I had two favorite desserts: Sahleb, a hot pudding made of starches and plants with a coconut-pistachio topping, and Malabi, a cold custard with a red rosewater syrup on top. There was a small place near a car repair shop, in the industrial part of town, and it was open throughout the night; when we were cramming for exams, we used to go there and meet other night creatures: construction workers, auto industry workers, bakers, and everyone else who felt like a comforting dessert in the middle of the night.

This is a healthier, nut-based version of a rosewater pudding. Unless you enjoy a slightly alcoholic taste in your cakes, opt for rosewater made only of distilled water and rose petals.

Crust
5 pitted dates
1/3 cup walnuts, soaked for 10 mins in boiling water

Filling
1/2 cup cashews, soaked for 10 mins in boiling water
1/2 cup pine nuts, soaked for 10 mins in boiling water
1-2 tsp maple syrup
juice from 1/2 orange
2 tbsp rosewater
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup Earth Balance

Topping

15 cherries, pitted and chopped
splash of rosewater
splash of whiskey

For the crust and filling, follow the instructions in the lemon-lavender cake recipe

While the cake is in the molding ring cooling in the freezer, cook the cherries in rosewater and whiskey until fragrant and a bit soft. Let topping cool a bit, then layer on top of the cake and place everything in the fridge until it's time to serve.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Citrus-Lavender Raw Mini-Pies

Amidst the dramatic national news, what are ordinary people to do? Host friends from out of town and cook vegan food, of course! Our friend Adi stayed with us for a few days, and I decided to treat him to a special breakfast pie. Imagine my joy when the one and only Noa Shalev, whose vegan cheese course you absolutely must take, emailed us an amazing gift for Shavuot--an e-book full of festive special recipes, which she graciously allowed us to share.

I wanted to make one of the pies, but I didn't have all the ingredients on hand, so I improvised. The outcome was stunningly delicious, not too sweet, and fragrant with herbal aroma. You'll find Noa's recipes in the booklet; mine follow. My recipe makes two small (2.5''-3'') pies. You'll need two round dessert rings or large cookie cutters (I use the same ones I use for my cheeses.)

Crust
5 pitted dates
1/3 cup almonds, soaked for 10 mins in boiling water

Filling
1/2 cup cashews, soaked for 10 mins in boiling water
1/2 cup pine nuts, soaked for 10 mins in boiling water
1-2 tsp maple syrup
juice from 1/2 orange
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup Earth Balance
3 drops lavender essential oil
2 lavender tips

Place dates and almonds in food processor and process until sticky and coarsely chopped. Place both dessert rings on a plate and squeeze half of the mix into each dessert ring, using your fingers to compress the crust at the bottom of each ring. Place plate with rings and crust on it in freezer.

Then, drain cashews and pine nuts and place in blender with all other ingredients. Blend until creamy and smooth. Take plate with rings and crusts out of the fridge and pour cashew/pine nut mixture into the rings, on top of the crusts (you might need a spatula to get all the goodness out of the blender.) Return plate to freezer for about half an hour, or until top solidifies but is not yet frozen.

Shortly before serving, garnish each mini-pie with lavender tip. If you like, serve with a nice fruit salad (I add chopped lavender and mint to my fruit - good stuff.)


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Flavored Macadamia Cheeses

You guys, I am beside myself with enthusiasm about Noa Shalev's vegan cheese course. If you're a Hebrew speaker, cough up the 350 NIS and join the course. It's so worthwhile. Noa is a fountain of knowledge about fermentation and culturing and about nutrition in general, and her recipes rock!

I'm amidst the process of making hard cheeses, which Noa advises to make from macadamia nuts. I made two kinds: cheeses that I hope to age in the dehydrator and then in the fridge, so that they develop "body" and a rind, and slightly softer cheese balls rolled in spices.

I hesitate to reproduce the recipe, because I really want you all to take this course, but I'll just mention that Noa ages her cheese with probiotic capsules, which is a convenient method, especially if you don't have it in you to make rejuvelac or squeeze sauerkraut juices.

This bleu cheese is made with spirulina, and one of the things I've learned is that a little spirulina goes a very long way. That's not a tiny cheese, and I put half a teaspoon of spirulina in it. It brings a bit of that moldy taste into the cheese and looks like the original. I'm quite thrilled with it!





This cheese is my effort at a yellow hue, which I achieved with turmeric. I also threw in some cumin and coriander, because I really like that combination. Next time I'll do this with jalapeño bits, I think.

Once these cheeses harden in the fridge, I'll put them in a dehydrator for 24-48 hours, and then I'll age them further in the fridge. Delayed gratification.


These ones we can eat right away: cheese balls with all kinds of spices and flavorings. Here are my combinations:

ras-el-hanout
za'atar
zchug
chimichurri
nigella seeds-onion
oregano-garlic
sumac-cumin-coriander

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Butternut Squash Muffins with Spelt and Teff

Whenever we get butternut squash in our CSA box, I try to bake it right away and store the puree in the fridge. I can then use it in a variety of recipes, and today I decided to bake squash muffins. They came out incredibly fluffy, probably because I replaced almost half the flour with teff. I made a few other adjustments to Isa's recipe, and it turned out great. Here's my version:

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup teff
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup almond milk (I used my turmeric-goldenberry milk, so you might need to add a bit more maple syrup if yours is unsweetened.)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 chopped dates

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately. Then, gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredient bowl. Mix until just combined. Pour into a dozen muffin molds and bake for about 20 minutes or until knife comes out dry.

Cashew "White Cheese"

Many Israelis' childhoods include a classic culinary staple: gvinah levanah ("white cheese"), a soft and light cheese to spread over bread or eat with vegetables. It typically came in 5% and 10% fat variations, and there were numerous versions with herbs and spices.

With the help of Noa Shalev's wonderful nondairy cheeses and milks course, I produced a cheese yesterday that tastes even better than the original. The key is to use probiotic capsules for the fermentation. I used two capsules (approximately 30 million microorganisms) for about a cup of soaked and blended cashews. I flavored the resulting cheese with salt, orange juice, nutritional yeast, and fresh marjoram.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Homemade Almond Milks

This month I'm happily taking Noa Shalev's terrific vegan cheese course. Just from the ingredient list I could tell that I'd learn a lot. And indeed, it's a fantastic course, chock-full of nutritional knowledge and kitchen tricks, and of course marvelous recipes.

I won't reveal the recipes themselves, because I want you to take the full course and learn for yourselves, but I did want to offer a sneak peak into the world of homemade almond milks. Noa recommends adding a bit of vegan lechitin to the blender, because lechitin binds both with the water and with the fat in the almonds. On the left: turmeric-goldenberry milk. On the right: hibiscus-vanilla milk. Both flavors are fantastic and unusual.

The organizers of a big potluck party I'm attending tonight divided the food assignments by birth month, and I was bummed out for half a second that the November people got beverages, as I love to cook (could you guess that? :D). But then I decided to bring creative, made-from-scratch drinks, and I hope people will dig these. The hibiscus flavor is especially delectable.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Pineapple-Oat Cookies

These cookies turned out quite fantastic: chewy and full of fruit. We got a fresh pineapple in our CSA box and this was one way to make good use of it! The basic recipe is at Natural Sweet Recipes, but I modified it a bit because I didn't have all the ingredients at hand. Turned out great, and they're full of whole grains, and thus a good treat for those of you who like something sweet at breakfast.

1/2 cup safflower oil
3/4 cup Applesauce
4 tbsp maple syrup
2 Tablespoons Ground Flax
2 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1/3 cup Finely Chopped Pineapple
2 cups Steel Cut Oats
1 3/4 cups Spelt Flour
2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Pink Salt
1 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg

In a small bowl, beat the oil, applesauce and maple syrup until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and finely chopped pineapple and mix. In a food processor or blender, combine all the dry ingredients. Blend until the oats are a very course meal. Add the dry to the wet mixture and mix until just incorporated. Scoop out dough about generous tablespoon balls on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-10 minutes.

Note: You may need to broil the tops of the cookies. They harden as they cool.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

White Bean and Hemp Herbed Burgers

This post doesn't have a photo, and not because the food was ugly; it was really pretty. But it got eaten so fast that I didn't make it with the camera!

I had about a cup and a half of white beans in the fridge, and with some herbs and other delicious things the whole thing was transformed into beautiful green burgers, reminiscent of falafel, which were delicious with hummus and vegetables. Here goes:

1 1/2 cup white beans
2 tbsp each: dill, parsley, cilantro
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
1 tsp Mrs. Dash
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp polenta
4 tbsp hemp seeds

Heat up oven to 375. Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until well combined. If too wet, add polenta and hemp seeds. Form four burgers and place on a baking sheet with a silpat mat or waxed paper. Bake for about 20 minutes and serve hot.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Orange-Clove Cookies

Delicious and easy to make!

But first, a kitchen gear recommendation: If, like me, you bake very infrequently, you might appreciate having a small hand mixer that doesn't take up a lot of room. I'm really enjoying this one.

1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
4 tsp orange zest
7 cloves
1/3 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt

Heat oven to 375 and prepare a baking sheet with a silpat mat on it (or waxed paper with a bit of grease on it.) Cream the coconut oil and maple syrup. Then, add zest, cloves, nuts, flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix well. Dough should have soft play-doh consistency. Make little balls, place on baking sheet, and flatten a bit at the center with your thumb. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the edges are golden.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Butternut Squash with Beans and Leeks

It's always a special day when we get a big delivery from Rancho Gordo, purveyors of delicious and unique heirloom beans. Sure, you can open a can of beans (I do that sometimes, too!), but cooking your own beans from scratch yields a much more flavorful and textured batch. So every week we cook a pound of beans--different beans every time--to use in that week's cooking.

This week we cooked Domingo Rojo beans, which were delicious, but I'm sure this recipe would work with any red or black bean. The combination of creamy, baked squash with the beans is comforting and satisfying.

1 small butternut squash
1 cup cooked black or red beans
1/2 cup chopped leek, white and green parts
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup water or vegetable broth
1 tbsp ras-el-hanout

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, remove seeds and stringy innards, and place in a 375 degree oven, face down, for 45 minutes or until the squash is soft and creamy throughout. At this point it should be easy to peel. Cut the peeled squash into 3/4-inch cubes.

While the squash is cooking, saute leeks and garlic in a little bit of vegetable broth. After about 3 minutes, lower the heat and add the beans and the ras-el-hanout. Cook for about 10-15 minutes.

Gently mix in the squash cubes.


Marjoram-Pepper Pasta Sauce

At the end of yesterday's faculty meeting, my colleague Marsha hollered: "Anyone here cook?" I immediately waved my hands and hollered back: "Me me me!" Marsha very graciously gifted me with a big bag of fresh marjoram from her garden. It turns out that the crows eat all her other herbs, but leave the marjoram alone. :)

Well, I don't know about the crows' taste in herbs, but I *love* marjoram, and its wonderful aroma and flavor are showcased at their best in this recipe - a vegetable-packed, spicy pasta sauce. I served it atop spiralized zucchini, but you can of course substitute the pasta of your choice.

1/4 cup water or vegetable broth
1 cup leeks--green part or mixed
3 garlic cloves
1 can diced tomatoes
2 red bell peppers
1 small eggplant
about 8 green olives, pitted
2 tsp capers
generous handful of fresh marjoram
pinch smoked paprika
optional: tofu cubes or chickpeas

In a wok or skillet, heat up water or broth and add sliced leeks and garlic cloves. Saute until fragrant. Then, add peppers, eggplant, and tofu cubes or chickpeas. Continue cooking for about 5 minutes, then add the diced tomatoes, olives, capers, marjoram, and paprika. Lower the heat and continue cooking until the peppers are soft and the tofu is flavorful. Serve atop the pasta of your choice.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Vegetable-Based Mac 'n' Cheese

This vegan "cheese" sauce is very easy to make and absolutely delicious. And the surprising part is - no soy or cashew is involved!

The recipe comes verbatim from Brand New Vegan, where you can find many such delights. I simplified it a bit for you and upped the carrot content at the expense of the potatoes. This will have a fair amount of protein on account of the nutritional yeast, but if you'd like more protein you can make lentil pasta to go with it.

2 medium-sized potatoes
5-6 medium-sized carrots
1/2 water from cooking the potatoes and carrots
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tsp quince vinegar (the original recipe called for apple cider vinegar, but we ran out
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 cloves garlic 
1/2 tsp brown mustard
1/4 tsp turmeric

Cut potatoes and carrots into cubes and boil in water for 10 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer potatoes and carrots to blender and add 1/2 cup water from the pot, and pulse to mix. Then, add all other ingredients and blend until smooth.

Cook pasta (I like lentil pasta for this - nutritious and yummy) and drain; return pasta to pot. Pour sauce over pasta and mix well.


Saturday, April 01, 2017

Chocolate-Quince-Plum Cookies

These cookies, an emergency adaptation from the classic Veganomicon, came into existence because I forgot to buy treats for friends who came over to work on an organ with Chad. They are working on the instrument down in the garage, and Chad asked me to buy some vegan cookies on the way home from aerial class. Whaddya know--flying upside down on a hammock is so exhilarating that one forgets things! I bought lots of fresh vegetables and forgot the cookies.

But have no fear: this recipe uses a bunch of stuff that I had lying around in the fridge and pantry and the cookies came out fantastic: chewy, moist, and emitting an irresistible aroma of chocolate and fruit. They have less sugar than the original Veganimicon recipe. Here's the deal:

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup preserves (I had plum puree and quince marmelada from Vermont Quince)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix wet ingredients in a bowl. Sift dry ingredients into wet ingredients and mix until combined. Dough will be soft and pliable. Roll small balls--about walnut-sized--and place on baking sheet, flattening each ball a bit with your thumb. Bake for ten minutes.



Thursday, March 30, 2017

Labaneh

Cooking food from countries affected by the travel ban gave me a wonderful feeling of inner peace--both as a private person with people of all nationalities who love to cook and eat good food, and as someone who tries to contribute a little bit to more compassion in the kitchen. Imagine my joy, therefore, when I heard about Kifah Duski's new book Peace in the Kitchen, which features vegan Arab cooking.

Kifah is originally from the village of Faradis, which is very close to where my parents live; she moved to Tel Aviv for university and, from there, to Prague, where she currently lives. The book is divided into three parts, each for each transition in her life. The Faradis recipes are homey, the Tel Aviv recipes are quick and appropriate for a student kitchen, and the Prague recipes a bit more elaborate and haute-cuisine-ish.

Some of the recipes are not new to me, as I've been cooking Middle Eastern food for a long time. But some are completely new, and some feature new forms to make stuff I've been making forever. For example, Kifah's version of shakshuka doesn't feature thin tofu slices (which is how I've been making it) but "egg whites" made of soy and "egg yolks" made of chickpea flour, all layered to look like real eggs.

The book is written in both Hebrew and Arabic. I really wish it came in an English version, because many of my non-Middle-Eastern friends will find stuff there that will dramatically expand their horizons beyond what's served here in Arab restaurants.

The most impressive recipe in the book, for me, is the labaneh, because I've been craving this sour, fermented soft cheese for a very long time. Here it is, in its vegan splendor:

1 cup blanched almonds, soaked overnight
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
1/2 cup soy beans, soaked overnight
1/4 cup olive oil
juice from 2 large lemons
water
salt

Place all ingredients except water and salt in food processor and process. Gradually add water until achieving the desired consistency (I like it kind of robust, like fromage blanc) and salt to taste. The original recipe calls for refrigeration, but I left my batch out of the fridge for the night to culture, and it greatly improved its taste and resemblance to the dairy original. Serve with a sprinkle of za'atar.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Kale, Squash and Lima Salad with Amazing Green Dressing

After seeing a vegan Green Goddess dressing recipe on the Oh She Glows blog, I was determined to make something fantastic to put it on. I didn't have all the ingredients for the dressing on hand, so I substituted ingredients from our backyard. It came out lovely! You'll have a lot of leftover dressing, which you can have on other salads, grains, beans... it's so delicious it makes anything into a feast.

For the salad:
1 large bunch dino kale
1/2 large, or 1 small, butternut squash, cubed
2 cups cooked (or canned) large white lima beans

For the dressing:
2 cloves garlic
2 ripe avocados
juice from 4 lemons
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 big handful green onions
1 big handful fresh oregano
1 big handful mint or catnip
water to taste

Place all ingredients for the dressing in food processor and process until smooth. Add water until it reaches desired consistency (pourable but viscous).

Remove stems from kale leaves and massage leaves in a large bowl. Add a few spoonfuls of the dressing and mix well to coat. Add squash and beans and lightly toss. Enjoy!



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Libya: Couscous Soup

Just in time for the stay of the ban by the District Court judges in Hawaii and Maryland, we have a recipe from Libya to end our Banned Countries VeganFest! Couscous from Tripoli is traditionally served with soup poured on top of it. The soup is mild in taste and so delicious that it can be a meal on its own, sans couscous, and super easy to prepare.

1 big onion, diced
1 medium-sized cabbage, chopped
1 cup butternut squash, cubed
3 carrots, sliced
3 zucchini, sliced
big handful of parsley, minced
1 can or two cups of cooked chickpeas
dried vegetable powder or bouillon cube

Place all vegetables with the bouillon in a pot and cover with water. Cook on the stove for about an hour and a half, or in the InstantPot for 45 minutes. Serve on its own or pour on top of cooked couscous. Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Iran: Khoreshte Karafs

As Muslim Ban 2.0 enters into action and colleagues around the country volunteer to help travelers in distress at airports, we continue cooking food from banned countries. Today, it's Iran, with a beautiful celery stew called Khoreshte Karafs. It's very fresh and nutritious and has an intriguing tangy taste, thanks to a special ingredient: dried Persian lime.

1 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
7-8 stalks celery, diced
1 large bunch fresh parsley, chopped
1 handful mint, chopped (I admit I used fresh catnip! no mint in the house)
1 cup neutral-tasting beans, cooked (I had white beans lying around)
1 tsp fenugreek leaves
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
3-4 small Persian limes, ground
water

Heat up olive oil in big wok or pot. Add onions and saute until soft and translucent. Add celery, parsley, mint, beans, fenugreek, criander, turmeric, paprika, and pepper, as well as water. Cook until celery is soft and thoroughly cooked. Add Persian lime and cook for another few minutes. Serve over rice.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Yuba Fresh Rolls

I'm still enjoying my experiments with Hodo Soy fresh yuba, and today's light meal was especially lovely. As you can see in the picture on the left, my rolling skills could use some improvement - this definitely doesn't look like the tightly, expertly rolled numbers from the restaurant - but the result was delicious nonetheless.

We had about 3 tablespoons of marinade left over from another meal and used that to saute the yuba and the mushrooms. Everything else is fresh. Efficient prep and laying out the ingredients ahead of time is more than half the battle. Handling the rice paper takes a bit of dexterity, but it's fun, and a bit of sriracha on the side will add to the festivities.

5 rice paper wrappers (they are round and 8'' in diameter)
1 cup lettuce
2 stalks green onion
big handful of cilantro
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 package yuba
6-7 large crimini mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 inch ginger

Remove stalks from lettuce leaves and slice into ribbons. Mince green onion and cilantro. Organize lettuce, green onion, cilantro, and sprouts in four columns on a cutting board.

Meanwhile, with a sharp knife, slice the yuba into very skinny ribbons (about 1/4-inch thick) and toss them around in your fingers until they separate into thin layers. Thinly chop the mushrooms (you can also use a food processor.)

Chop up garlic and ginger. Swirl around in a wok with the soy sauce and liquid smoke until hot and fragrant. Add yuba and mushrooms and cook for about five minutes, or until the sauce absorbs into the solids. Remove from heat and place in a container near the cutting board with the raw vegetables.

Fill a large, shallow dish with about 1/2 an inch warm water. Place it to the left of a cutting board. I like to organize the counter as follows:

warm water dish  |  empty cutting board  |  cutting board with vegetables  | yuba mixture

Take a rice paper wrapper and dunk it in the shallow dish. Don't wait for it to completely soften--just so that it's pliable. Quickly, remove from water and place on the empty board.

At the center, sprinkle about 1/5 of the raw vegetables, and add 1/5 of the yuba mixture. Roll one side over, as tightly as you can, and then roll the other side. The wet rice paper will seal itself.

Repeat until you run out of wrappers and mixture. Serve with sriracha or peanut sauce.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Crunchy Salad of Beauty

Look at this salad! There's a little bit of everything: crunchiness, tartness, nice colors. It's crunchy and happy. It's very easy to make, and comes out especially pretty if you have a spiralizer.

1 small cabbage or 1/3 big one, roughly chopped (wider ribbons than you'd make for slaw)
1 big rainbow radish or several small ones, thinly sliced or spiralized
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced or spiralized
1 small orange, sectioned and cut into bite-size slices
juice from 2 lemons
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp mustard seeds

Mix and enjoy!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Steamed Mushrooms in Foil

Japan is not (yet!) on the banned countries list, but I decided to cook a Japanese recipe simply because I love this dish so much. Osaka Sushi on Castro serves it, and I've always wanted to make it at home.

I don't know if my recipe resembles the one the chef at Osaka uses, but the outcome was comparable enough that I feel comfortable sharing. The key is to find or make vegan furikake - a spice blend containing seaweed and sesame. We found ours at the market in Japantown. Everything else is simple.

1 cup various mushrooms (I like using several different kinds)
2 tbsp vegetable broth
1 tsp vegan furikake
1/2 tsp salt
a square of foil large enough to hold the mushrooms

Place the mushrooms in the center of the foil square and lightly fold in the corners to create a bit of a bowl. Pour in the vegetable broth, furikake, and salt. Scrunch together the foil corners to close the foil into a pouch. Steam for about 10 minutes if using a pot or about 3 minutes if using an Instant Pot.

It's nice to serve this alongside vegan sushi and a simple greens dish.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Yuba Stir-Fry with Peppers, Sprouts, and Mushrooms

I love all soy products, but yuba is my recent favorite! The delicate skin that forms on soymilk has a special texture and tastes wonderful. Fortunately for us, Chinatown's own Hodo Soy, whose tofu and ganmodoki are delicious,  also sell fresh yuba. Try it - it's terrific!

In this recipe, the yuba is cut into narrow strips, like delicate noodles. Take the time to fluff it up - it takes just a few moments and is really worth it.

1/2 package yuba
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 cups sprouts (I use mung bean sprouts)
6 large white or crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves
1-inch chunk ginger
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp soy sauce or liquid aminos
1 tsp hot sauce--sriracha or other variety

Open yuba package and cut half (return the rest to the fridge for a future meal.) With kitchen shears or a sharp knife, slice the yuba into 1/4-inch-thick strips. Then, with gentle finger motions, fluff out each strip to break it into a thin ribbon.

Slice or mince the garlic and ginger. Place them in a hot wok and add some water, yeast, soy sauce, and sriracha. Cook together for 2-3 moments. Then, add pepper, mushrooms, yuba, and sprouts. Stir-fry for about 3-4 more minutes or until ready. Enjoy!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Quick Buckwheat and Adzuki Bean Stir-Fry

Russia has been in the news lately, and I had buckwheat at home, so I put together a quick and satisfying dinner made of some cooked and sprouted items I had at home.

Adzuki beans are delicious when cooked, but they are also very easy to sprout: just place them in a jar with water for 24 hours, and then change the water every few hours until they develop little tails and are soft enough to eat. You can enjoy the sprouts raw or, as in this recipe, quickly stir-fry them.

1 cup cooked buckwheat
1/2 cup mung beans, sprouted
1/2 cup baked butternut squash
about 2 tbsp red onions, finely chopped
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat up olive oil in a pan. Add onions and swirl around some. Throw in squash, beans, and buckwheat, and cook for about 5 minutes or until hot and combined. Add salt and pepper and serve hot.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Yemen: Bean Soup

Long-time readers of this blog may recall that, twelve years ago, we lived in the Yemenite Quarter of Tel Aviv, right next to the Hakarmel Market. That gave us access to wonderful fresh vegetables, but also to phenomenal Yemenite hole-in-the-wall restaurants, which we frequented and adored. One particularly beloved joint, which was known among the neighbors as "Yehezkel's" after the owner, specialized in traditional soups. Moreover, Yehezkel cooked his soups on a traditional oil burner, and the slow cooking on low heat gave the soups very special body and aroma.

Which is why today's stop on our Banned Countries Food tour is especially moving and fun for me.

For lots of people, Yemenite cooking is associated with Malawah and Jahnoon, two oily dough pastries eaten with crushed tomatoes and hot sauce, but for me it's always been about the awesome soups. Here's my vegan and healthy approximation of Yehezkel's famous bean soup, with very minor adaptations from Natalie Holding's recipe. Her recipe will yield a very, very spicy soup, which is how Yemenite soup is eaten, but Western palates can use a bit less black pepper and paprika! It can never be as good as the original, but it comes pretty darn close.

1 cup white beans (cannelini or navy beans)
1 large onion
5-6 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp paprika/cayenne
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp hawayej for soup
1 tsp turmeric
2-3 tomatoes, or about a cup of canned tomatoes
1 celery stalk
1 cup cilantro

Soak beans overnight, or at least let them sit for ten minutes in boiling water. Drain.

Mince the onion and garlic. Sauté the onion in olive oil or in water (I use water these days - the outcome is just as delicious) until it starts turning golden. Then, add garlic and sauté a bit longer. While this is going on, chop up tomatoes and celery into little cubes.

Place onion and garlic in soup pot or in your Instant Pot. Add all spices, tomato, celery, and cilantro. Cook on a low flame for 3.5 hours if using a regular soup pot and 2 hours if using an Instant Pot.

Yehezkel used to serve his soup with lachuch, but I like it plain. If you do decide to add more pepper and paprika, have a bland grain or some steamed broccoli or cauliflower on the side to mellow it out.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Iraq: Maklouba

Growing up in Israel, I enjoyed lots of Iraqi food: I especially loved sabich, the special sandwich with fried eggplant and tahini, which is delicious and easy to make. But today, as part of our Banned Countries food tour, we're making something a bit more elaborate: Maklouba.

I was taught how to make maklouba many years ago by one of my clients, who was doing a life sentence at an Israeli prison. He was vegetarian, and received dispensation from the prison authorities to make his own food. He would get an allowance for some cheap vegetables, cut them up, fry them, and then layer them with rice to produce this fragrant, delicious cake. Making his own food made him feel just a bit freer and more independent than he was, and helped his spirit soar under difficult external and internal circumstances.

This version is a bit different than the traditional: rather than frying all the vegetables, I slice and pre-bake them on a silpat mat, reducing the overall fat content and oxidation of the dish without missing out on the taste. I also include more vegetable layers, because anything is better with more colorful layers!

1 medium eggplant
1 butternut squash
1 medium-sized potato
1 golden beet
1 large carrot
1/2 medium cauliflower
1 onion
3 roma or beefsteak tomatoes
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 tbsp baharat
1 tbsp ras-el-hanout

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice all vegetables into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Place all of them, except the tomatoes, on baking sheets, drizzle a bit of lemon juice or vegetable broth, and bake for about 20 mins or until eggplant is soft.

Coat the bottom of a Dutch Oven with a circle of parchment paper, and atop it, place the tomato slices in a layer. Don't be afraid to overlap.

Remove vegetables from oven. Place layer of eggplant rounds atop the tomato. From here on, the layering is up to you! I continued with onion, beet, and carrot, then put a layer of rice, and then did a second layer of squash, potatoes, and cauliflower, and placed the rest of the rice. Whatever you do, aim at finishing with a layer of rice.

Mixing the spices into the water or broth, gingerly pour it on top of the layers, without disturbing the architecture of the thing. Place on stove and cook on high heat until water boils, then lower the heat and let simmer for about 30-35 minutes or until rice on top is ready.

To eat, place a sturdy plate, inverted, atop your pot. Carefully invert the pot and place on stable surface. Remove the pot and carefully peel the parchment paper layer. Voila, maklouba!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Somalia: Cambuulo iyo Maraq

Today we visit Somalia on our tour of banned countries' cuisines. I learned this satisfying rice and bean dish, which is a great lunch or dinner option, from the wonderful blog Somali Kitchen. You can follow the recipe there to the letter or make the few adaptations below, which make the recipe slightly less traditional and slightly more nutritious: more lemon juice in lieu of vinegar, brown in lieu of white rice, and broth for sautéing the onions.

1 cup brown rice
1 cup aduki beans, cooked (if you have uncooked beans, soak them and then cook in water for 20-25 mins. It'll take about the same time as the rice if you're cooking them at the same time. Drain.)
3 tbsp water or vegetable broth
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili flakes
2 juicy lemons
cilantro for garnish

Cook the brown rice as you always do (these days, I cook it in the Instant Pot, with a 1:1 1/4 rice to water ratio.)
Mix the aduki beans with the rice.
In a wok or pan, heat up water or broth, and sauté the onion for a few minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Then, add the tomatoes and spices and cook for another five minutes on low heat. Juice the two lemons, pour into tomato sauce and cook another five minutes.

Ladle the tomato sauce atop the rice and bean mixture and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sudan: Salaat Jazar

Continuing our banned countries cooking extravaganza, I present a delicious Sudanese salad, salaat jazar. It's a great illustration of the principle that the whole is bigger than its parts and is refreshing, tasty, and very nutritious.

1 pound carrots (I used rainbow carrots)
juice from 4-5 lemons
4 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 tbsp ground sumac
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp  ground coriander
1 small handful fresh cilantro

Slice carrots and steam them for a few minutes, until just cooked and still al dente.

Mix all other ingredients except the cilantro.

Place sliced, steamed carrots in bowl, and pour dressing over them. Mix well. Then, sprinkle fresh cilantro.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Tofu Bacon



For this stormy evening dinner, I'm making a lovely black adzuki bean soup with carrots, beets, beet greens, and celery, and I plan to top it with this easy and beautiful tofu bacon. The Buddhist Chef's recipes are wonderful! I omitted the maple syrup and it still came out delicious.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Comfort Quinoa

My favorite meal when sick or upset used to be a simple bowl of rice noodles with some salt and pepper. But I've come to say a gentle farewell to this dish for two reasons: first, I'm realizing more and more that seeking comfort through food is masking r eal needs and emotions that require deeper solutions, in lieu of the sugar rush band-aid. And second, there are more satisfying things to eat. One of them is a new dish I made yesterday, which hits the right tomatoey-cheesy notes without being overly starchy. It's very easy to make if you have leftover tomato sauce in the fridge.

1 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 large leek, sliced into rings, both green and white parts
1 cup mushrooms (I used maiitake), cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a pot, mix a bit, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for approximately 20 mins or until quinoa is fully cooked. Enjoy!


Thursday, February 09, 2017

Take Your Blender on a Trip!

Vegas, Baby! City of excess shopping, excess gambling, excess construction... excess, period. This applies to the strip; I do know that there is a real city beyond these glittery signs, in which people live real lives. Some of them are good friends! But when one is in town for just a few days in a fancy hotel in the strip, what's one to do?

If you gamble and enjoy rich foods and alcohol, you're in luck, and I hope you have a great time! Alas, I am a holdout from the prohibition era and my background in statistics precludes the magical thinking that goes with gambling. And rich foods... by all means, enjoy them if you like, but what if, like me, you're on a health and fitness kick and wouldn't want this business trip to stand in the way of your energy and vitality? So if you are like me, you take a lot of joy in the incredible Cirque du Soleil shows that are playing in town (discount tickets can be found online). And what else does one do?

Crazy but doable solution: fly with a blender.

I kid you not. You can do it.

For my everyday blending, I use my trusty Vitamix. Their standard 5200 model is not cheap, but it's a true powerhouse and very much worth the investment for home cooking. But it's a fairly hefty device, and so for trips I take the Nutribullet Pro 900 with me. It's a terrific little machine that does not take up too much room in your luggage and will improve your quality of life fairly significantly when on the road.

It may seem a bit crazy to fly out with a blender, but it's such a good, low-effort way to start the day with something familiar that is good for you. The more I age, the more my exacting travel schedule wears me down, and it's good to at least know that a good breakfast will be forthcoming. Conference food is not exactly a paragon of health, between the greasy hotel restaurants and the starchy Starbucks in the corner, and you'll be happy to have a green smoothie in the morning.

It really is not crazy. It's doable. Here are some tricks of the trade.

You want a small blender that can easily fit in a carry-on with your clothes. The base of the NutriBullet will take about 1/6 of your luggage space, and you can wrap it in clothes to keep it safe. Unfortunately, even the carry-on bag needs to be checked in, as there are tiny knives at the bottom of the blending base. The cup that you use for blending can go in your purse so you can sip water on the plane.

In addition to the blender, you should plan on packing the following in your check-in bag:

(1) cutting board. I go with a very thin, light, flexible plastic one that you won't miss if you forget to pack it on the way back.
(2) small but sharp knife with a sheath (so it doesn't shred your belongings on the way.)
(3) bento or Tupperware box for your food, filled with vegetables, fruit, and nuts.
(4) If you know that buffet options where you're going will be sad for vegans protein-wise, pack a can opener.
(5) Reusable cutlery (I have a little bamboo set with a fork, spoon, knife, and chopsticks that I always travel with.)

As to your actual food, you have a few choices. One of them is to fly with your produce. This is a good idea if you have slightly bigger luggage or if you know you're going to a place where a produce market will be difficult to find. In that case, you can pack your vegetables and fruit in the Tupperware box. Another option, which is more realistic if you need your luggage space for clothes etc., is to research a produce source before you leave home, and upon checking in at your destination, to hop out and get supplies for a few days.

You can get anything you want, but my recommendation is to try and rely on fruit and nuts that do not require refrigeration, and to improvise to refrigerate your vegetables and greens.

My shopping list for four days:
2 bunches of kale (one dino, one curly)
1 long cucumber
1 bunch cilantro
2 cups raw cashews
1 container cherry tomatoes
about 10 tangerines
about 8 apples, or a box of strawberries
2 small cans of chick peas and/or a package of ready-made edamame
small ginger root and/or turmeric root, for tea

If you have a little refrigerator, you're in luck! If you are fridge-less, or are staying in one of those places where the fridge is jam-packed with booze, use your ice bucket. Most business hotels have one, and there's typically an ice machine in every floor. Drape the little plastic bag over the bucket, fill it about half way with ice, and "plant" your greens and your cucumber in it. Now you have a little edible "potted plant" in your hotel. If the bottom of the leaves freeze a bit, no matter--it's all going in the blender anyway--and it'll cheer you up to see some greenery. Don't forget to change the ice at least once a day to keep your greens happy.

If you are a coffee drinker, usually you're all set with the coffee machine in the room. But I find that not everyone knows that you can make yourself herbal tea in the coffeemaker. Leave the coffee pod compartment empty, fill the water compartment as you would for coffee, and place your cup in the machine with a few small pieces of ginger and turmeric in it. As the water brews, it'll drip on your roots, making you a nice and spicy cup of morning tea.

Your green bounty allows you to have a nice morning shake in your hotel room, made from about a cup of kale, a bit of cucumber, a handful of cilantro, a spoonful of cashews, a tangerine, and an apple or a few strawberries. For your daily excursions, I'd pack some tomatoes, cucumber sticks, chick peas, nuts, and fruit in the little bento box, which offer you healthy snacking options in lieu of the danishes and muffins that might be coming your way. And if you're worried that people might think you're a freak, I say--so what? You're humming with energy, happy that you planned to take good care of yourself during a busy business trip, and you'll also find that people care much less about what you eat than you think.

Incidentally, one thing that has always puzzled me at professional events is the strong peer pressure to drink at the evening events. I think this behavior is on the decline, because so many friends and colleagues are in recovery and thus not drinking, and so it's become less polite to ask or nag. If you're a drinker, all the power to you (so long as you're in control of yourself and feel okay). But if you're not, you don't need to apologize for choosing not to partake. If you prefer to just circumvent the situation, one way to divert social pressure is to order a glass of plain water or club soda with a lemon or lime wedge in it. It gives you something to hold and sip that resembles vodka and eliminates questions.

Bon Voyage!

Monday, February 06, 2017

Health v. Ethics in Veganism: A False Dichotomy

A couple of years ago, a friend in Israel spearheaded a farm animal sanctuary. Several of the volunteers were living onsite, working hard physical labor in fixing up the grounds so they'd be suitable for the cows and chickens they were bringing in. He called me from the supermarket: "I'm so appreciative of the volunteers," he said, "that I'm here getting them snacks: bamba, bissli, vegan chocolates, and the like. I wish I could do more."

"One thing they might appreciate," I said, "is a weekly vegetable and fruit delivery box from a local CSA. Maybe I can chip in?"

"They are ETHICAL vegans, NOT health nuts," my friend responded. And that was that.

Health nuts?

The three main reasons for veganism that are advocated in books, films, and elsewhere, are health, animal rights, and environmentalism. And the conversations about each of these issues tend to be siloed. Some people come to veganism via Earthlings and some come to it via Forks Over Knives.

I came to veganism through ethics (biocentrism and ecocentrism), and even if this were not a healthy way to eat I'd probably make some compromises. Happily, if one is mindful of what and how much one eats, it is a very healthy choice. So, in this reality--and not in the alternative one, in which vegans lack nutrients--I think that the health-versus-ethics debate is a false one. And it is not harmless: it has several pernicious effects.

One side of this problem I'm seeing is an upsetting celebration, on the part of ethical vegans, of food that might not be cruel to animals, but is certainly cruel to people. Lists pop all around the Internet, rejoicing that Oreos and Fritos are vegan. Of course I'm happy that this stuff isn't cruel to animals. That's reason to rejoice, but it is not a good reason to eat it. It's not good for you, and it's not something that gives you energy and strength to fight for animals another day. This phenomenon is not limited to the low-grade, cheap packaged snack food (which has the scary advantage of being affordable, and thus an easily available sugar/starch fix): all around town, vegan businesses are popping up, which traffic in the upscale, albeit not particularly healthy, vegan fare. Vegan cinnamon rolls. Vegan deli sandwiches and cookies. Vegan cupcakes and donuts.

Don't get me wrong: I'm delighted to see this vegan renaissance. I'm glad that, in our imperfect world, these businesses exist and even thrive. But giving vegans alternatives that mimic the (bad-for-you) options in the animal-consuming world can also a disincentive to eat better. I confess that I sometimes feel pulled to order some deep-fried thing or sweet from one of these good folks because I want my money to go into vegan businesses, even though ultimately this stuff makes me feel groggy and heavy. And while it's true that buying sweets and starches is a choice, it is not an entirely free one given our evolutionary attraction to fat, sugar, and salt.

I think these businesses also crop up to counter the prevailing view that veganism is some sort of horrible, self-depriving sacrifice, which always makes me want to ask people: excuse me, have you ever eaten a tangerine or a pineapple? Or enjoyed a dish of freshly-picked greens and white butter beans (just to name what I had for dinner last night)? It is possible to have a very enjoyable and varied diet without making unhealthy stuff the centerpiece of your self-validation.

I understand the "everyone wants/needs a treat once in a while" mentality. But recently, through my work with Tilly Paz-Wolk and reading about emotional eating, I've come to realize that the emotional connotations of these treats--as compensation, comfort, you name it--hide deep needs for love, belonging, and acceptance. It takes more work to figure out what you actually want--empathy and compassion from a friend? More appreciation from colleagues or from a boss? Some help with household chores from family members?--but it is ultimately more rewarding, because a donut, vegan nor not, merely dampens your feelings for a few minutes and leaves your deeper needs unanswered.

The other side of this problem is the scorn and elitism of "health vegans" toward diets that are not healthy enough. The world of health veganism comes with a lot of discontents, the most odious of which is perhaps the term "clean eating," which reeks of pathology and orthorexia. There's a lot of nutritional Calvinism in that world, and a lot of guilt if the wrong thing touches your lips, and with all that self-flagellation comes flagellation of others--from commenting about other people's food choices to just keeping your paternalistic and scornful thoughts to yourself (yes, others can read your scorn in your face even if you exercise some restraint and don't voice them.) I've had family members discreetly move food items out of my reach at restaurants "for my own good" when they thought I wasn't noticing. And of course, much of this goes hand in hand with the disrespect and dehumanization of our fat brothers and (especially) sisters.

Some of the "clean eaters" and health vegans take to spending money on powders and supplements and so-called "superfoods," with the fads coming and going with the blink of an eye. Careful attention to the ingredients of this stuff reveals some surprising similarities to the food they scorn and disdain. Folks who advocate unprocessed foods (a good idea in itself, of course) sell you their own versions of highly-processed shakes and pills, supposedly to supplant the cheaper processed foods you won't stoop so low as to eat. Sometimes, this stuff is harmful only to your wallet; other times, it can dissuade you from seeking empirically proven, life-saving medical care.

So, how do we reconcile these differences between the health and ethics seekers and bring some unity and compassion to this situation?

First, we rejoice in everyone who reduces their reliance on the animal industry, for whatever reason they choose. The intent is secondary; what mostly matters is the outcome, which is less cruelty toward animals, and that's a net good. We thank everyone: flexitarians, vegetarians, vegans before 6, new vegans, old vegans. Each and every one of them, in small or big ways, is bringing us one step closer to the world we want to see, which is free of animal cruelty. We can gently encourage people to step up their ethical game, but ultimately, people need to awaken to compassion on their own.

Second, we decide to rely on fresh, seasonal produce as the main components of our diet, and to eschew our reliance on artificial "nutrients," whether cheap or fancy. The one exception to this rule is vitamin B-12, which you should supplement if you're vegan.

Third, we all need to wake up and see through the commercial interests of anyone who is selling us things. Oreos sell us temporary numbing and something very sweet and devoid of any nutritional value. Fancy vegan donuts sell us something more upscale but of similar nutritional value. Fancy powders and shakes sell us an image of health and reasons to snub others. Look at fonts, colors, advertising language, and ask yourself--beyond food, what am I being sold here? How is buying this supposed to say something about my self identity? The more aware we are of this, the more able we are to resist it.

Fourth, we refuse to neglect our health to prove the purity of our ideology. You are not less of an ethical vegan if you eat more fresh vegetables and fruit. It is not a betrayal of your ethics to forego buying that bag of vegan chips. You are not stabbing the ethical vegan movement in the back if you enjoy a banana in lieu of a donut.

Fifth, we provide honest and unvarnished opinions about animal welfare when appropriate (such as when we're being asked), but otherwise, we stay out of other people's plates--certainly where issues of weight could make the conversation strained and hurtful. Commenting on ethics is important, because the eater is hurting others, not just himself or herself, with their diet, but when done with animosity and without love and compassion it can be counterproductive. I'm on the fence about the Liberation Pledge, for exactly that reason. Sometimes it works wonders and sometimes it isolates and depresses (more on my version of the Pledge in another post.)

And finally, we listen to our bodies and our souls in making choices about food. When we do that, we start noticing patterns of hunger, cravings, and deeper needs. We listen carefully to our stomachs and reward them with qualities and quantities that are good for them. We take very good care of ourselves with quality fuels, so that we can continue to fight for a just world with energy and verve.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Australia: Tofu Mini-Steaks in Vegemite-Ginger Marinade

Given our fearless (führless?) leader's inexplicable rudeness toward Australia, I interrupt the series about banned countries to include a recipe with an Australian ingredient: Vegemite. I picked up a jar after the strange political upset and tried a bit, and found it very salty. If it's an acquired taste, I don't know that I plan to acquire it. But I put a tiny bit in a marinade for tofu steaks this evening and they came out the bomb.

240g extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp vegemite
1 tsp ground ginger
1-2 tsp hot sauce

Slice tofu into 1/4-inch-thick rectangles, then slice each by half to get smaller pieces (this way it absorbs more marinade.) Place at the bottom of a shallow dish. Mix all other ingredients of the marinade and pour on top of the tofu. Heat up a grilling skillet and grill the tofu well on both sides.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Syria: Muhammara

Getting a bit of a head start on our Banned Countries VeganFest, I made muhammara today! It is a spread/salad made of roasted red bell peppers and walnuts. It has a sweet and rich taste, and in the past, when I bought it, I often used it as pasta sauce. You can use it as a dip for vegetables or as sandwich filling.

Muhammara originates from Syria, but made its way to Turkey, where people are very fond of it. I like the idea of starting the Banned Countries VeganFest with an immigrant dish to honor its country of origin!

My version here has no added oils (plenty of healthy fats come from the walnuts) and, in lieu of breadcrumbs, I add a small amount of cooked chickpeas to make it stick. Any difference in taste from the original recipe is unnoticeable, and the chickpeas give it a small protein boost.

3 large red bell peppers
2 cups raw walnuts
juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup cooked chickpeas
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chili flakes

Heat up a grilling skillet or a wok with no oil in it and place the three bell peppers in it. With a turning fork or wooden spoon, turn the bell peppers around in the pan to roast all the sides. They are ready when they have a lot of black marks on them all over from being roasted - this should take around 10 minutes.

Then, carefully pick up the roasted peppers and drop them all into a plastic bag. Tie the bag and let it rest for about fifteen minutes.

After the peppers seem to have cooled down a bit and "sweated" a lot of steam, open the bag. At this point, removing their center and seeds and peeling them should be very easy.

Place the peeled peppers in your food processor with the walnuts, chickpeas, lemon juice, cumin seeds, and chili flakes. Pulse until mixed and still a tad chunky.

Serve with fresh vegetables or in a sandwich.

Announcing Banned Countries VeganFest!

Breaking bread with others is an experience that can move mountains. Sharing flavors leads to sharing stories and values, and it also creates appreciation for the special things that make a culture distinctive and unique.

On the week of 2/13 through 2/19, every evening, I will be cooking, eating, and posting a vegan recipe from one of the seven countries under the new administration's travel ban: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Lybia. 

I would like to invite YOU, dear readers, to submit vegan recipes from these countries in the comments! And maybe, with the recipes out there, we can all humanize and empathize a bit with our friends from these countries, or with countless people who are not our friends yet, but could easily be, over a nice meal.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tofu with Tomatoes, Brussels Sprouts, and Mushrooms

Did you like Brussels sprouts when you were young? I most decidedly did not, though I reluctantly ate them when they were placed in front of me. These days I adore them, and mostly prepare them simply: cut into halves lengthwise and baked in the oven, and later sprinkled with vegan parmesan. But today I prepared them in a very tasty stir-fry; it's a refreshing combination of textures and tastes and I hope you'll like it.

Three garlic cloves
1 square inch ginger root
250g tofu (a block about the size of one cup)
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Sriracha or other soy sauce
2-3 tomatoes, cubed
about 15 Brussels sprouts, cut lengthwise into halves
1 1/2 cup of different mushrooms - any kind will do-chopped into bite-size pieces

Mince garlic and ginger and place in wok. Turn on the heat and add a little bit of water. Cook until aromatic, then cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and add to the wok. Add soy sauce and sriracha and swirl around pan until the tofu is a bit browned and coated with the sauce. Then, add the tomatoes, the Brussels sprouts, and the mushrooms. Cook for a few more minutes, until the Brussels sprouts are cooked through but still retain their crunchy personality, and the tomatoes wilt into lovely, gooey bits. Serve on a bed of grains, or if you're like me and just like tofu and veg, on its own.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Tzili Rice

I've just finished four weeks of a delightful correspondence with the one and only Tzili Paz-Wolk, who specializes in issues of emotional eating and our relationship with food. It was a helpful, instructive, and--no less important--compassionate experience, which led me to think about the role food plays in my life and how to modify it in a way that supports a healthy weight and a calm workday.

In honor of Tzili, I made a recipe that she mentioned she'd made at home: delectable rice with mushrooms and vegetables. Alas, I didn't have black rice, so I substituted it with short-grain brown rice, and I also added kale and chard to mine in lieu of spinach. I don't know if it came out similar to hers, but it was certainly delicious. I'm going to call it Tzili Rice! Here goes:

3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp chopped green onions
3 cups kale and chard leaves and stems, chopped
1/2 cup homemade tomato sauce
3 bell peppers (I used one green and two red)
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup brown rice
3 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped dill

Combine the vegetables and rice in your Instant Pot and add 1 1/4 cup water. If you're cooking this on the stovetop, add 2-2.5 cups water. Cook until rice is tender (25 mins on high pressure in the Instant Pot.) Sprinkle with the herbs after cooking and before serving.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Herb Cashew Cheese Without Culturing

I was going to open this post with a pun about how, in the next four years, we'll have learn to do without culture... (thanks, folks, I'll be here all week) but the truth is that my almond feta efforts earlier this week backfired and I wanted to make a quick cashew cheese with no culturing period. Enter The Buddhist Chef, whose recipe videos are clear and wonderful, and his vegan cheese recipe.

One of the many nice things about the Buddhist Chef is that his very tasty recipes are really as easy as they look. Even vegans who are not kitchen veterans can use them, and they seem especially wonderful for folks making the initial transition to veganism and looking for replacements for their favorite staples. I modified the recipe a bit to exclude oils and sugars, and to replace some ingredients I didn't have on hand, and the outcome was wonderful.

Step 1: Cheese Mixture

1/2 cup cashews, soaked in hot water for ten minutes (if you don't have a high-powered blender, soak them for longer)
1 tsp herbs de Provence
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp arrowroot powder (the Buddhist Chef suggests cornstarch, and my experience is that these two behave similarly in vegan cheeses)
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
juice from 2 lemons
1/2 cup water

Drain cashews, place all ingredients in blender, blend until silky smooth.

Step 2: Hardening

1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp agar flakes

In a saucepan, combine water and agar. Add cheese mix and whisk. Bring to a slow boil while whisking all the time. Pour into silicone muffin pan and place in fridge for at least two hours before inverting.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Chickpea "UnTuna" Salad

I like deli meals and Salade Niçoise - as evidenced by this post! But the ready-made "vegan Toona" we used did not hit the spot. It was very oily, salty, and oddly textured. Give it a try; you might like it better than me. But I found a homemade solution that is very tasty and satisfying. It's a recipe adapted from Sweet Potato Soul, with a few modifications. We didn't have umeboshi vinegar, but we did have my friend Nancy's quince-infused vinegar, which is fantastic. I also decided to add some nori to the recipe for a more "fishy" taste. The result was delicious!

2 cups of cooked chickpeas
1/2 small avocado
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp vinegar (we used quince, and I bet apple cider would be nice, too)
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 tsp celery seeds
2 tbsp minced green onion
1 tsp chili flakes
2 sheets of nori, torn into squares

Place everything in the food processor and pulse just a few seconds, until everything is mixed and the texture is to your taste. YUM!


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Update on Smoothie Revolution, and Bonus Soup

Since I started working with Tzili, I changed the composition of my smoothies from mostly fruit with commercial nut milks to mostly greens with some fruit and nuts. It's been pretty amazing: the smoothies feel nourishing and satisfying. The basic formula is approximately 250-300 grams of greens and vegetables, about 200-300 grams of fruit (two pieces of fruit) and about 30 grams of nuts, with some water. Today I found out that putting raw beets in a smoothie is delicious and lends the whole thing an appetizing and happy deep purple color. The composition was as follows:

100g chard
85g kale
1 medium beet (about 90g)
1 pear
1 tangelo
small handful of almonds

It came out the bomb!

As a bonus, since we have fresh beets, I made a great red soup yesterday in the Instant Pot. It was very easy, because I had some cooked white beans in the fridge (canned beans can totally fit here). I chopped up and placed in the pot:

2 roma tomatoes
2 beets
2 large carrots
1 large leek
1.5 cup celery stalks
about 1 cup cooked white beans.

After 45 minutes under high pressure, this soup was aromatic and delicious. Garnishing it with dill adds to the joy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Tiny Roasted Peppers

Last time I was at Whole Foods I was tempted to pick up a bag of tiny sweet bell peppers. They come in shades ranging from yellow to red and are no more than an inch or two in length (and girth.) I had lofty paella plans, but ended up using them as a lovely snack. They become sweet and delectable when roasted.

You don't need olive oil or any fancy seasoning. Just place some peppers in one layer on a baking sheet and pop into a 350-degree oven for about 10-15 minutes. They are ready when they are soft and sport a few dark scorched spots.

Some folks place them, piping hot, into a plastic bag, and let them steam, and then peel them. I don't think that's necessary to enjoy them - they're good as they are.

You can put a tiny bit of filling in each one after they're finished: tofu "cheese" or faux gras, but that's unnecessary. They really are delicious as they are.

Pack them in a little box and take them to work as an afternoon snack, and don't forget to share them with friends!

Here are a bunch of other suggestions, all of which can easily be veganized by substituting the cheese they suggest with nut cheeses and vegan parmesan.