Saturday, August 05, 2017

Mint-Choc-Chip

For a couple of days I've had rushed mornings, which required me to buy my smoothie rather than make it at home; which is how I found out that both Project Juice and Urban Remedy have tasty, natural versions of mint-chocolate-chip.

Inspired by those shakes, I made an even healthier version at home. I increased the green content and added different kinds of vegetables. The mango somehow rounds it up, and cocoa nibs make it into a fun treat. It came out delicious!

100g kale
95g celery (about two stalks)
90g cucumber (about a third of a big cucumber)
90g banana (one medium-to-large banana)
55g mango (half a mango)
2 tbsp chopped mint leaves
1 tsp maca powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
cocoa nibs to taste

Blend everything except the cocoa nibs and add them at the end (for a fun texture.)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Risotto with Trumpet Mushrooms and Vegetables

I had just finished eating leftover mejedderah when Chad called me to announce we were going to have four guests for dinner--all four of them fierce martial artists just out of a four-day tournament! Easy peasy - a nice risotto, served with some vegetables and dip and gazpacho, did the trick.

For the rice I used whole-grain arborio, which is not very easy to find on the shelves but you can order it here. It has the glutinous quality of its white cousin with more nutritional goodness. I also had trumpet mushrooms, which slice beautifully into rounds, some greens, a heap of caramelized onions, and lots of stock.

1-2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup onions, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced trumpet mushrooms
2 cups greens (kale, collards, chard), chopped into small bites
2 cups brown arborio rice
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
2 tbsp fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Heat up olive oil in a large pan. Add the onions and toss about until caramelized (this could take you a good ten minutes.) Add the mushrooms, greens, and rice, and toss for a few more minutes. Then add 1 cup of stock, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook until almost absorbed. Then, add another cup of stock, plus the yeast and half the herbs. Repeat the process by which you let simmer until almost absorbed and then add another cup until all stock has been added. When all stock is absorbed and the rice is fully cooked, place in serving bowls and sprinkle the remaining half of the herbs. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Pasta Puttanesca

Here's a nice, simple dinner--pasta with puttanesca sauce--for which you likely don't even need a recipe, and the only reason to post about this is that it makes a good example of how to take an old favorite and make it more nutritious.

I've always loved puttanesca sauce--a spicy tomato sauce--and it retains its wonderful flavor without adding anchovies. I add olives in addition to capers, and to increase the mineral content of the meal, a 1/2 cup of sliced fresh mushrooms that cooked with the sauce and made it chunky and delicious. What else is in there? strained tomatoes, garlic cloves, thinly sliced onions, dried herbs of various kinds, and half of a serrano pepper.

These days I favor lentil pasta. I don't eat it frequently (it's expensive, and why not simply eat lentils?) but it's a nice once-in-a-while treat. It certainly packs more of a nutritional punch than the wheat equivalent (lots of protein and iron.)

And finally, more protein and some B12 via my vegan parmesan (macadamia nuts, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and salt). Some nutritional yeast brands add B12 to their formulas, which is great!

Bon appetit!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mojo de Ajo and What to Do With It

Since returning from Mexico I've been enjoying Jason Wyrick's book Vegan Mexico, which offers lots of interesting and authentic recipes. One of them is for a very useful item: mojo de ajo - olive oil infused with garlic and citrus. I made a small batch a week ago and have been keeping it in the fridge. I don't use a lot of oil these days, and usually prefer to cook using vegetable broth, but once in a while it's a nice change. Here's the basic recipe, followed by two of many dishes you could use it for:

Mojo de Ajo

1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup peeled whole garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
juice from one lime, orange, or lemon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place olive oil in a baking dish and add garlic and salt. Bake for about 45 minutes. Carefully retrieve from oven and add citrus juice. Bake for another 20 mins or so. Remove from oven, let cool a bit, and, with the back of a wooden spoon, mash the garlic inside the olive oil. Keep in fridge and use where scented olive oil is appropriate.

White Beans, Zucchini, and Tomato

1/2 tsp mojo de ajo
1/2 small white onion, diced
1 medium-sized zucchini, sliced into thin rings
1 medium-sized tomato, diced
1 cup cooked white beans (cannellini, navy, or similar)
big handful of herbs: I like rosemary and oregano for this, but be creative

Heat mojo de ajo in pan. Add vegetables, beans, and herbs, and toss about for 7-10 minutes until fragrant.



Roasted Vegetables

1 tsp mojo de ajo
2-3 sweet potatoes, sliced
1/2 small white onion, diced
3-4 heads bok choy, separated into leaves
6 garlic cloves
1-2 cups assorted mushrooms
big handful of herbs
2 corn cobs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut a piece of parchment paper double the size of your baking sheet. Place the bottom half of the paper on the sheet and rub mojo de ajo on it. Arrange vegetables and herbs on the baking sheet, then fold other side of parchment on top of them and put in oven for approximately 40 minutes.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Tacos with Baked Tofu, Avocado, and Mango

This whole feast on the left, complete with homemade tortillas, took me 20 minutes to make. Easy peasy! Of course, we benefit from the fact that Casa Lucaz #3, our local grocery store, keeps fresh masa bags for purchase near the counter. Here are the instructions, for two people:

First, make the tofu (the most time-consuming task.) Heat up the oven to about 420 degrees. Cut up 150g tofu into little cubes. In a shallow dish, mix:
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 tsp liquid smoke
1 heaping tbsp nutritional yeast

Then, add tofu cubes to the dish and toss around until coated. Place cubes on silpat mat on baking sheet in a single layer and forget about the tofu for 20 minutes.

Then, make the salad: lettuce, avocado, mango and cilantro, with plenty of lime juice.

Then make the tortillas: I used masa and a tortilla press. I'm especially fond of making tiny tortillas, 3-4 inches in diameter, because they look cute. Wrap both sides of the tortilla press with saran wrap or parchment paper and place a small amount (the size of a ping-pong ball or less) on the bottom side, closer to the back hinge. Then, carefully close the press and use the handle to press. Gingerly peel the tortilla of the paper/saran wrap and place on a hot, dry griddle. After 1 minute, flip over to other side; after 1 more minute, tortillas are ready.

Beet Burgers

If you're anything like me, you probably have all kinds of vegetable leftovers. After yesterday's iteration of the Buddha bowl, we were left with about a cup and a half of quinoa, a cup of cooked chickpeas, a few steamed beets, and a small plastic container of zucchini in tomato sauce.

I placed all these things in the food processor, added some salt, pepper, and liquid smoke, and added some dry polenta until the textures solidified enough to make little patties. I then baked the patties on a silpat mat at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, and we had delicious beet burgers to enjoy with vegetables, tahini, and a side sip of the New York Times' legendary gazpacho.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Even More Buddha Bowls!

You already know I've been very enthusiastic about Buddha bowls lately, right? Exhibit A; Exhibit B. Well, here's Exhibit C, just to give you more inspiration to concoct your own. The toppings are incredibly easy to make:

Beets: I steam them in the Instant Pot for eight minutes and then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Carrots and Brussels Sprouts: This time I halved the sprouts, cut the carrots into matchsticks, and rubbed both vegetables with a little bit of mojo de ajo that I had lying around from having made Mexican food earlier in the week. I then placed them on a silpat mat on a baking sheet and sent them into the oven, at 350 degrees, for about 25 minutes.

Zucchini in Tomato Sauce: I had a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce lying around from a nice ravioli dinner yesterday. I thinly sliced up two large zucchini and sauteed them in the sauce until tender.

Chickpeas: I could've gotten fancy with this and baked them with spices, but this time I simply spooned cooked chickpeas with some fresh ground black pepper.

In the center I have a few spoonfuls of kimchi.

And the whole thing sits atop a layer of quinoa cooked in vegetable broth.

Which is another illustration of the principle: if there's an abundance of colorful, wholesome ingredients, you don't have to be particularly fancy with the preparation of each topping - just place them nicely in the bowl and you'll have a fabulous lunch.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Grilled Vegetable Casserole

The answer to the question "what do vegans eat on the 4th of July?" is obvious: grilled vegetables of all kinds! But what do vegans eat on the 5th of July?

We had a bunch of grilled vegetables from yesterday in the fridge, and today, with the help of some fresh tomato sauce and some herbs, they turned into a nice, filling casserole. Feel free to improvise with whatever you have in your fridge.

1/2 cup grilled corn kernels
1/2 cup grilled potato
1/2 cup grilled cauliflower
4 grilled mushrooms
2 large grilled onion slices
6 grilled Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup tomato sauce
oregano, marjoram, rosemary, garlic to taste

Cut up vegetables into small cubes, and in a baking dish, toss with tomato sauce. Sprinkle herbs. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 mins or until the top begins to be golden.

Gazpacho

Tonight I'm having a nice friend over, so I took a few minutes in the morning to make gazpacho according to the New York Times recipe. I used eight large vine tomatoes, two Persian cucumbers, half a red onion, and one Poblano pepper, and drizzled in olive oil. This is one recipe in which the oil makes a big difference--it emulsifies everything into a heavenly orange-hued soup.

I'm also serving sauteed long green beans in garlic-ginger-soy sauce, a green salad, and easy portobello pizzettas.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Collard Wraps

Today we're grilling vegetables in the yard! It's always a fun thing, and our selection this time includes cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, and brussels sprouts. On the side, we'll be eating these guys: collard wraps stuffed with a lovely light salad.

Wrapping with a leaf is a skill, but you get better at it the more you do it, and collard leaves are excellent for this purpose because they are sturdy and, at the same time, pliable. You trim their stem and steam them lightly and they're ready to go. It's a nice, hand-held way to serve a salad, and might induce salad-phobic people to indulge.

Wraps
4 collard leaves

Salad
1 package kelp noodles
1/2 a regular cucumber or 1 Persian cucumber (preferred)
4-5 radishes
2 tbsp chopped green onions
big handful cilantro
1 small avocado or 1/2 big one

Dressing
juice from half a lemon
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
chili powder to taste

First, mix all dressing ingredients and set aside to combine.

Then, place kelp noodles in bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand for a few moments.

While the noodles are rehydrating, thinly slice all vegetables. Drain noodles and mix with vegetables. Pour dressing on top and gently mix to combine.

With a small, sharp knife, gently trim the stem off the collard leaves, without tearing the leaf itself. Place trimmed leaves in a steaming basket (or in your Instant Pot) and steam for a few minutes. Remove from heat source and rinse leaves gently with cold water.

Place a collard leaf on a cutting board, with the stem side toward you.. Place a few hefty spoonfuls of salad at the center of the leaf. Fold the stem side over the salad, away from you, and the opposite end toward you. Then, fold the sides as well. Flip the wrap with the seam side pointing down and give it a gentle squeeze. Proceed until all leaves and salad are used. Place on a tray, seam side down.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Vegan Pupusas

This blog's subtitle refers to our neighborhood, Mission Terrace, in which you'll find lots of wonderful Mexican and Salvadorean restaurants--and more than a few that serve food from both cuisines. If you have masa on hand, you can make both tortillas and their Mexican cousin, pupusas--a nice, fluffy pancake stuffed with nice filling. Our neighbors on Mission Street make theirs with dairy cheese, so I decided to try my hand at my own version and stuff mine with cashew cheese. I made two varieties: cheese and beans and cheese and loroco (a green bud sold at Mexican supermarkets and grocery stores.) Both came out delicious.

My technique is still pretty shoddy, but even the failures are tasty. For a real expert's guide, I give you Lupita.



How to make the vegan fillings? I used my soft cashew cheese and mixed some with beans and some with loroco, in lieu of the fillings Lupita uses. Note that it's easiest to maintain the consistency of the pupusa if the masa and the filling have roughly the same consistency. Buen Provecho!

More Buddha Bowls!

Here's another variation on the Buddha Bowl theme! This one has, as its base, some leftover brown rice, stir-fried with spinach and mushroom. On top is a romanesco broccoli, accompanied by beets, sweet potato, cucumbers, radishes, two types of kimchi, and some sliced Sproutofu (a very easy way to eat tofu when you don't have energy to marinate and bake anything.)

I really encourage you to experiment--really, all it takes is to use cooked, raw, and fermented vegetables, with a starch and a source of protein in a creative and colorful way.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Make Thine Own Tortillas!

I'm back from two weeks of travel, the first of which was spent in beautiful Mexico City. What a treat! Art everywhere, delightful and interesting people, lots to see, and lots to eat! It's extremely easy to eat vegan in Mexico City. There are several vegan businesses: Gatorta, a vegan taco and torta stand at the corner of Puebla and Insurgentes, and Viko, a vegan taqueria-susheria in the Chapultepec underpass serving delicious soy horchata. I also had excellent vegan dishes with friends at Paramo on Avenida Yucatan - they made us ceviche from hearts of palm, tacos with roasted mushrooms, and a beautiful lentil salad.

But everywhere you go, even if the menu appears meat-heavy, just ask them for vegetables and they'll prepare them for you. I had tacos with rajas (roasted poblano pepper strips), nopales (cooked cactus fruit) and champiniones (cooked mushrooms), with heaping bowls of frijoles de olla (cooked beans served in their fragrant pot liquor.) The cheese-and-cream-on-tacos thing is, thankfully, not a feature of authentic Mexican cuisine, at least where I went, so everything was vegan and delicious.

My main takeaway from all this is that homemade tortillas are way better than purchased ones. So, when I bought groceries this morning at Casa Lucaz I picked up a fresh bag of masa. I rolled a little ball, about an inch and a half in diameter, and placed it in my new cast iron tortilla press, between two layers of parchment paper. It turned out a perfect disc, and I then popped it on a hot cast-iron pan for about a minute on one side, then 30 seconds on the other. It came out perfect and terrific - fluffy, flexible, full of corn flavor - and was a great base for a tofu and greens taco.

Making my own tortillas is absolutely worthwhile from the flavor perspective and also quick and easy, so I'm never looking back - it's all about the press and the pan from now on. I'm planning a nice Mexican mini-feast this evening using my new Talavera dishes - check out the pictures. In the blue dish: two pico-de-gallo salads (we like these!), some fresh spinach, guacamole, and tomatillo hot sauce. In the red dish: baked winter squash, Rancho Gordo beans, sauteed mushrooms with onion and a drop of whiskey, and sauteed kale in orange juice. Not all of these are traditional, of course--and you'll note that the rajas and nopales are missing--but they will be so tasty with the fresh tortillas!

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!