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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Arroz Verde

Chad's martial arts sensei, Miyako Tanaka, was a very special and distinctive woman. Her proficiency in Naginata, a Japanese spear art originally practiced by women, brought her to the United States, and here she established an excellent dojo and an entire generations of students who adored and respected her. She was a fierce woman, and at the same time, a kind one, with an abiding love for Japanese tradition, a quiet sense of humor, and innate nobility.

We lost Tanaka Sensei a few years ago and we miss her very much. One of the many ways in which we remember her is by cooking Sukoyaka Genmai, which is a short-grain, lightly milled brown rice she favored. She is the one who told us about it, saying it was "the very best brown rice," and, indeed, it is delicious! I like eating it simply steamed in water, but today I made a special version that enriches it with fiber and nutrients from lovely greens. This is a slightly healthier version of the classic Mexican arroz verde, and you can serve it with a bean or lentil dish or with tortillas.

2 cups kale, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper
2 garlic cloves
2 cups short-grain brown rice
water or vegetable broth (2.5 cups if cooking in a pressure cooker, 4 cups for stovetop cooking)
juice from 2 lemons
salt to taste

Place the kale, parsley, cilantro, jalapeño, and garlic in a food processor and process until very finely chopped.
Transfer the green mixture to a pot or a pressure cooker, add rice and water, mix well, and cook rice until tender.
Fluff rice with fork, add lemon juice and salt and fluff again.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Frijoladillas: Vegan Quesadillas

Non-vegan quesadilla purists might scoff at this recipe, which has no cheese and no pretense to cheesiness (save for, perhaps, the nutritional yeast, but it enhances the flavor, rather than makes it cheeselike.) I'm sure it's possible to make a fine quesadilla from Chao Slices or similar products, but the goal here was to make something satisfying and very nutritious. The filling they include in the recipe goes a long way. I simplified it a bit, and found that additional tomatoes were not necessary; they would water the consistency too much. As it is, it comes out tasting somewhere between a quesadilla and a pupusa de frijoles. Good stuff.

Part I: Filling

1 can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup Pomi or similar tomato product
1 clove garlic
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup black beans

mix all ingredients save for the black beans in the food processor. Then, add the black beans and mix with a spoon.

Part II: Assembly

corn tortillas

Heat up a pan (I did not use oil). Place a tortilla on the pan, a generous spoonful of the mix from Part I in the middle, and another tortilla on top. Cook for a few moments on each side, until the filling is hot and the tortilla has a magical, between-fluffy-and-crunchy texture. Serve hot on a generous bed of greens.

BONUS! The filling of the frijoladillas makes for a terrific soup base. Just add black beans and vegetables - I used kale, carrots, tomatoes, onion and garlic - and cook together for a delicious black bean soup.

Warming Stir Fry with Sprouted Lentils

It's that time of year! Evil flu strains that have managed to escape the clutches of the flu shot are invading our immune system and making us feel lousy. To help a beloved afflicted person, I made this for lunch. It's warming and nutritious, and yet light, so as not to encumber a system already busy fighting viruses. The innovation here is that, in lieu of a cooked grain or bean, I'm just very lightly warming sprouted lentils. It keeps them fresh and springy to the taste.

The day before making this dish, you'll have to sprout the lentils, which is very easy - simply place a cup and a half or so of lentils in a bowl and cover with fresh water. Change the water after a few hours, and then change it again in the morning. You'll even see little tails beginning to form! Drain the sprouted lentils and set aside.

Now, to the main show:

3 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 inch ginger, minced
1 cup water + 1 tbsp veggie bouillon or dried vegetable powder or 1 cup vegetable broth
1 large carrot or two or three small ones, cut into thin rings
5 large shiitake mushrooms, sliced (if using dried ones, soak them in some warm water before cooking)
3 cups of green vegetables (I used about 8 heads of baby bok choy and about four leaves of dino kale)
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ginger powder
1-2 tbsp soy sauce
2-3 cups lentil sprouts

Place garlic and ginger in a wok and add about 3 tablespoons of the broth. Turn on the heat and swish around, until the garlic and ginger are aromatic. Then, add the carrots, and cook for another couple of minutes, adding 1-2 more tablespoons of the broth. Then, add the mushrooms and continue cooking; add about half of the soy sauce. Add the greens and cook for about 5-6 minutes, adding broth whenever the bottom of the wok dries up and stirring as you go. When the greens begin to wilt, add the tomatoes, cumin, ginger, and continue cooking a couple of minutes until the tomatoes soften. Finally, add the sprouts and the remainder of the broth and the soy sauce. Stir-fry everything together for a few minutes, until the sprouts are warm, but before they become mushy. Serve warm.

Note: I didn't serve this with a side of tahini, but I bet it would be a blast.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Book Recommendation: Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen

Indian food! Delicious, complex, labor intensive... I adore it. Indian restaurants are among the few I still frequent, because it is difficult to replicate the textures and tastes at home. But Richa Hingle's wonderful book and its companion website are true game changers.

With crystal-clear, detailed explanations, careful seasoning, and creative ingredient list, Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen is an invaluable contribution to our cookbook shelf. It occupies the necessary gap between vanity vegan books, which show pretty but unrealistic concoctions, and basic vegan books, with recipes I already know how to make.

Yesterday we made two of her recipes - palak paneer, which features homemade almond paneer in a rich spinach sauce, and malai kofta, in which the lovely dumpling balls are made of cabbage, cashew, and chickpea flour and cooked in savory tomato sauce. What an incredible meal! Making the paneer and the kofta is very labor intensive, but also intriguing, and the result is impeccable in taste and texture.

Geared toward folks who are not proficient in traditional Indian cooking, and yet not oversimplified, the book empowers us to venture beyond our comfort zone and dare to cook authentic meals with authentic spices. I highly recommend it!