Tuesday, May 30, 2017


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.


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.

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

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


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.)

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

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:

nigella seeds-onion

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.