Thursday, March 30, 2017


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

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

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!