Monday, September 12, 2011

Three Pepper and Mushroom Tacos

Since I last posted I've been pretty busy, but not too busy to cook new meals. As a result, I now have a bunch of recipes stockpiled and photographed, just waiting to be written about. So, what kept me from posting since the month started, you ask?
  • Austin and I continued unpacking and otherwise putting the house together. Yes, we moved over a month ago and while the place is 90% set up we still haven't found a home for some things. For instance, our pictures and other wall hangings still haven't made it off the floor. So sue us. 
  • I've been accepted to the OM Yoga 200 hour Teacher Training program, which starts this weekend. That means that for one weekend a month for the next 8 months I'll be totally immersed in all things yoga, not to mention the independent work I need to do in between the instructional weekends. I don't know if I'm more excited, scared, or intimidated. In preparation for the start of the program I've been doing lots of reading and practicing.
  • Austin and I went to our friends' Steve and Brianne's wedding. They planned a beautiful event in the Outer Banks, here in NC and we made a long weekend out of it. We were so happy they chose to share such an important day with us. Congratulations to the beautiful couple! 
  • I started doing P90X. During the week, I wake up at 6am to get the workout in before the day starts. Am I loving every minute of it? Absolutely not! Am I getting my ass kicked? You bet. Do I think I'll be in better shape after I'm done with it? Most definitely. 
Amidst the craziness of the last week and half, I've developed a new obsession -- mushroom tacos. I think the seed was planted when I fell in love with the portobello tacos they make at Chubby's Tacos in Durham.  I thought I'd make my own version using cremini mushrooms (which are just small portobellos) and all I can say is mmmmmmmmm, delicious. Ok, I lied. I'm going to say more. I'm so infatuated with these tacos that I've made them 3 times in less 10 days. Yes, they're that good. They do take a bit more effort and time than my go-to bean tacos but they're absolutely worth it. The key their amazingness? Nicely browned, umami rich mushrooms, which, as a bonus, will make your kitchen smell seriously amazing. As Austin said the second time we had them "You can't not like these, I mean, how could you possibly miss the meat?"*.

 Three Pepper and Mushroom Tacos
 Makes about 10 tacos
Inspired by the Portobello Mushroom Tacos at Chubby's Tacos
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb / 455 g cremini mushrooms, wiped clean with a slightly damp towel (please do not wash them, they'll never brown) and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 poblano peppers or 1 medium green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded if you don't like heat and minced
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, seeded if you'd like and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from the chipotles
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
  • About 10 corn tortillas
  • A large handful of cilantro, chopped
  • One batch of roasted tomatillo salsa or your favorite store-bought kind
1.  In a medium skillet, heat 3/4 of a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add half of the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally,  until brown, which should take about 10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. Repeat with the other half of the mushrooms. 

2.  Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the poblanos, jalapeño, chipotle and garlic and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

3.  Add the mushrooms to the onion and pepper mix. Toss in the salt and spices and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Serve immediately over warmed corn tortillas, topped with a sprinkling of chopped cilantro and some of your favorite salsa.

*As wonderful as I think these tacos are, I understand if you're averse to some of the ingredients or the preparation and therefore don't like them. We tend to be a bit hyperbolic around here. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Panzanella (Bread and Tomato Salad)

In my last post, I vowed to give quick simple dishes some love. Well, it doesn't really get any faster or easier than panzanella.  I've been meaning to make it about a month now, since I've come across a couple panzanella-esque recipes recently -- at El Comidista and Smitten Kitchen -- and now I'm upset I waited so long.

While other vegetables are sometimes added, the staple ingredients of this Tuscan salad are bread, tomatoes, and good quality olive oil. The preparation is about as minimalist as it gets so it's very important to start with fresh produce. 'Tis the end season for tomatoes and peppers, so hit up your local farmer's markets while you can. The bread also needs to be high quality -- think hearty and crusty -- and preferably a day old, to prevent it from getting too soggy. Once toasted, it soaks up the dressing and tomato juices without falling apart, basically doing the dunking for you. This combination of ingredients is seasonal perfection, but I couldn't resist adding some navy beans for a complete, albeit light, meal.

So the question shouldn't be why to make this salad, but why to wait another minute. After all it's September, and therefore time to start savoring the last of our summer meals.

Panzanella (Bread and Tomato Salad)
Makes 4 generous servings
  • 1/2 lb / 225 g good crusty bread, preferably a day old
  • 2 pints / 4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (you could also use any other tomato variety)
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can navy beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider, white or sherry vinegar (I like my dressing pretty strong so I added 2 additional tablespoons of vinegar)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 1 1/2-2 teaspoons salt 
  • 1/2 freshly ground black pepper
1.  Cut the bread into about 1/2 inch / 1 cm thick slices and toast it until it's golden brown. Cut it into bite-sized cubes and toss into a large salad bowl.

2.  Add the tomatoes, onion and green pepper to the bowl with the toasted bread. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and pour over the salad. Give the salad a good toss and let it sit for about 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up some of the veggie juices and dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately or store for up to a day. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Summer Stir-Fry with Quinoa

Thanks to our recent move, Austin and I have had to adapt to a number of things: a different area of town; living in a multi-story home (in my case for the first time ever); everything we own being in a different place than it was a month ago; and the layout of our new supermarket. This last one has proven a bit challenging, since the Kroger where we now do most of our shopping is somewhat weirdly organized. For instance, most of the vegetable broth is located in the health food section, instead of with the soup. This health food section also contains items, such as non-dairy milk, energy bars, and rice cakes usually found throughout the store next to somewhat similar items. Since I find the organization strange and confusing I was rather fearful when Austin suggested we track down a can of mini corn on the cob. Oh no, not a specialty ingredient! Instead of going straight for the canned veggies, I put on my Kroger shelf stocker hat and headed for the Asian foods section. Success!

But, as usual, I digress. Why were we searching for cute little corn cobs anyway? Well, Austin insisted we needed them for that evening’s stir-fry.  I had decided that’s what we were having for dinner because it seemed like the perfect way to make a dent in a seemingly bottomless bag of dried shiitakes and my ever-growing supply of peppers and zucchini. These veggies, along with the corn, made for fresh and summery-tasting stir-fry. For a protein boost, I served the stir-fry over a bed of nutty-tasting quinoa.

Even though it involved a fair amount of chopping, the meal was easy to prepare and came together in about half an hour. So if stir-fry is such a quick, not to mention tasty and versatile, meal why don’t I make it more often? Probably because I’m too busy working my way down a list of new, and usually more complicated, recipe ideas. I’ll try to remind myself that quickie old faithful dishes deserve some love too.

Summer Stir-Fry over Quinoa
Makes 4 servings
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cup dry quinoa
  • 3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chili and garlic paste
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced into 2.5 inch / 3 cm thin matchsticks
  • 2 Anaheim chilies or 1 green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into thin matchsticks
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can baby corn, cobs drained and halved
  • 1 cup sliced dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Optional: Sliced scallions for garnish
1.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring occasionally, until you can smell its nuttiness and starts to brown. Pour in 3 cups of water, sprinkle in the salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.

2.  Whisk together the soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice, and chili-garlic paste. Set aside. 

3.  While the quinoa is cooking, heat the remaining oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Toss in the onions and garlic and cook until the onions start to soften, about 3 minutes.  Next add the carrots and peppers, cooking for another 3 minutes. Then stir in the baby corn and zucchini and fry for another 3 minutes. Lastly, add the dried mushrooms, stirring to incorporate them into the mixture. Turn the heat off and stir in the sauce. Let the stir-fry sit for about 5 minutes, then serve over the cooked quinoa, garnished with scallions if you'd like. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mocha Tofu Pudding

It's no secret that I have a pretty bad sweet tooth. I find that it generally strikes after meals, especially dinner. A couple days ago I felt a hankering for dessert so I opened my fridge and looked for a quick fix. I didn't find any chocolate bars or anything else I could enjoy immediately but I did spot several packages of Mori-Nu silken tofu (Kroeger was having a sale; I couldn't resist). "Sweet,", I thought, "Pudding time!".

Now some of you may think that tofu pudding sounds pretty unappetizing. Well, it's actually delicious -- even Mark Bittman says so, which obviously makes it a fact. In addition to being tasty, a tofu-based pudding is healthier than it's cream-based counterpart and can easily be made low fat by using lite silken tofu. It's also a versatile quick and dirty dessert: you can enjoy during a lazy movie night or dress up and serve to guests.  Anyway, whether you believe me or not, you need to give this a try. And once you've fallen deeply in love with tofu pudding (you will), you can try this slightly more elaborate recipe. Happy dessert making!

What are some of your favorite quick and/or (relatively) healthy desserts?

Mocha Tofu Pudding
Makes 3 servings
  • 12.3 oz / 350 g silken tofu, drained (I used the shelf stable kind, Mori-Nu, although you could certainly use the refrigerated variety)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond (or other non dairy) milk
  • 1/4 cup espresso or other strong coffee
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or to taste
  • 6 tablespoons maple syrup or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Optional: Macadamia (or other) nuts for garnish
1.  Place all the ingredients in the blender or food processor and whiz until smooth.

2.  Chill for about half an hour, garnish with nuts if you'd like and serve. If you put the tofu, coffee and almond milk in the fridge ahead of time you can skip the chilling step. Not that it's absolutely essential; if you need your chocolate fix stat you can enjoy the pudding at room temperature.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Miso-Glazed Eggplant

As I've mentioned before, Austin isn't a huge eggplant fan. I, on the other hand, love it so much I can’t fathom anyone not feeling the same way. I’ve therefore declared that Austin’s dislike is really silly prejudice and have made it my mission to periodically sneak eggplant onto his plate when he’s not looking. Thankfully, he’s a pretty good sport about it and eats at least one serving of every eggplant-containing dish. My plan to make him taste the goodness in eggplant requires me to always be on the lookout for ways to cook it that I think he may enjoy.

When I saw Eric Growe’s miso-glazed eggplant recipe in Yoga Journal, I quickly ripped out the page and stuck it on my fridge, deeming it a perfect candidate for a (not so) stealthy attack. I've since served Austin a modified version of the dish several times. Not surprisingly, I think it’s delicious. But Austin has even gone so far as to describe it as “good” and have seconds. That's about as glowing an endorsement as I could hope for.

Miso-Glazed Eggplant
Adapted from the Eric Gower recipe published in the May 2011 issue of Yoga Journal
Makes 4 servings
  • About 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 lbs Japanese eggplant, halved lengthwise and scored about 1/2 inch / 1 cm deep on the fleshy side
  • 1/3 cup yellow (or other type of) miso
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of white wine or sake
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon maple or agave syrup
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • A couple pinches red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon chili and garlic paste 
1.  Preheat your oven's broiler. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, combine 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil. Once the oil is hot, add about 1/3 of the eggplant halves cut-side down. Flip the halves after about 4 minutes or once they've browned. Cook them for another 3 minutes or so on the other side and then transfer them to a foiled-lined or greased baking sheet, cut-side up. Repeat for the rest of the eggplant.

2.  While the eggplant is cooking, whisk together the miso, wine, maple syrup, garlic, chili flakes, and garlic chili paste, if using. Brush the eggplant generously with the miso mixture. Place under the broiler for about 2-4 minutes or until golden brown. (As you can see, mine got a bit too brown but it was still delicious).

3.  Sprinkle the eggplant with the toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Veggies For Real on Meatless Mondays

Austin and I spent the last week on vacation on Cape Cod, MA. We had no computers and no internet, hence the lack of posts. I'd love to say I spent a lot time on the beach sunning myself, but the truth is that for the second consecutive year the weather did not cooperate. I might of only gotten one good beach day but I at least I got to catch up on my pleasure reading. It could be worse.

I wish I could have figured out how to write this post on my phone, so that I could have posted the exciting news when it was fresh. Oh well, better late than ever. My Pesto Pasta with Spiralized Zucchini and Carrots is the suggested dinner of the week (until tomorrow, I think) over at Meatless Mondays! Check it out!  It's one of the most popular recipes on the blog, so I hope the Meatless Mondays readers enjoy it as well.

Time for me to get back to unpacking. There's nothing like coming back from vacation to a house full of boxes!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cantaloupe and Mango Slushie

On Saturday, Austin and I left the only apartment complex we've lived in in North Carolina (Pinnacle Ridge, it's been real) and moved into a townhome complex on the other side of Durham. We hired TROSA (Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers) to do our moving and they were absolutely fantastic and very affordable. As my mother would say, "Luxury is being able to hire movers".

While all our stuff is in our new place, most hasn't found its way out of the boxes. The only rooms I would say are fully set up are our two and a half bathrooms and the kitchen. Even though I tried prioritize putting the kitchen together, we just finished setting up it  up a couple days ago. After about five days of eating out (I'm always surprised by how old that can get), I cooked my first meal in our new home yesterday (black bean tacos with guacamole and salsa verde, in case you're wondering). I like our new kitchen a lot, but I'm still getting used to everything being in a different place, so much so that I find myself opening several cabinets to find a single utensil. Foreshadowing of my future senile self? I hope not!

Since I haven't gotten back into creative cooking mode yet, I'd like to share another recipe (although it's so simple it barely qualifies as such) I've been hoarding. This slushie was born out of necessity, really; I needed to make a dent in our CSA cantaloupe before the move and relief from the super humid heat. I added some lime juice, mango and ice to the cantaloupe and the result was summer in a glass. For an even more exciting drink (more exciting than mango, cantaloupe and lime? Imposible!) use your favorite spirit in place of the water.

Cantaloupe and Mango Slushie
Makes about 4 cups
  • 2 1/2 cups cold chopped cantaloupe
  • 1 cup frozen chopped mango
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup cold water (you could also substitute a spirit of your choice; I think vodka would be quite good)
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately, garnished with a lime for a bit of flair.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Quinoa and Blue Potato Salad

Sorry for the lack of posts, but the past couple of weeks have been insane. Last week I was at a conference in California, which was hugely informative and inspiring but also tiring. When I wasn't attending talks and poster sessions I was sleeping to prepare my brain for more learning. As soon as I got home it was time for Austin and I to start packing for our move this coming Saturday. As pretty much anyone who's moving says, you don't realize how much stuff you have until you're forced to deal with it all at once. Ugh! Thank goodness we've hired movers.

Needless to say, I haven't been cooking a lot lately. Fortunately, I had a few posts saved (which I'd intended to share while I was at the conference -- so much for good intentions) so I'll be able to keep posting during this crazy time. Because my last few recipes required using an oven (which even I cringe at in this triple digit weather), I decided to focus on more summery foods for a bit.

This salad was inspired by two of our finds at the farmers market: blue potatoes and cherry tomatoes. The potatoes were labeled as "all blue", which I thought meant blue-fleshed, when really they were just tie-dye-ish on the inside. They were still pretty and really tasty, especially when paired with another local favorite, sweet cherry tomatoes, crunchy pepitas, and toothsome quinoa. The salad was light enough for a summer night but hearty enough to be a meal in it's own right.

Quinoa and Blue Potato Salad
Makes 4 servings
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/4 lb / 565 g new blue potatoes (other new potatoes would work just as well), scrubbed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded if you'd like
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Optional: Pepitas or pumpkin seeds for garnish
1.  In a small pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa, cooking for about 5-7 minutes or until it's toasted and fragrant. Pour in the broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes (or however long the package indicates) or until all the liquid is absorbed. Fill a large pot 3/4 of the way with water and bring it to a boil. Salt the water and add the potatoes. Cook them for 8-12 minutes or until tender. Drain them and set them aside.

2.  While the quinoa and the potatoes are cooking, make the dressing. Add the oil, lime juice, jalapeño, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper to a mini food processor (or a regular sized one, if that's what you've got) and blend until smooth.

3.  Once the quinoa and potatoes are done, add them to a large bowl along with the bell pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes and cilantro. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Serve chilled or room temperature, garnished with some pepitas if you'd like.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

A couple days ago I found myself with some leftover silken tofu (from the cauliflower mac and "cheese") and a crazy chocolate craving. My first thought was to turn my predicament into cooookies, (the quickest baking chocolate vessels!) but I'd never made some with tofu before. I thought it might work well in place of the oil so I gave it a shot. First time for everything, right?

Since I was in cookies pronto (!!!) mode I wasn't thinking fancy, just soft, comforting chocolaty goodness and that's exactly what I got. I had intended to bring these into the office but Austin and I made them disappear embarrassingly quickly (ok  ok, I might have had a few more than he did). Such is life. I ate my share dunked in almond milk but I think they'd be even more delicious with some ice cream sandwiched in between them.

Vegan Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Makes about 20 cookies (more if you don't snack on the batter)
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats 
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup silken tofu
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons cranberry juice (orange juice would work well too)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Add the rolled oats to the food processor and pulse until they're pulverized. Transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into the bowl with the oats.

2.  Add the tofu, sugar, maple syrup, cranberry juice and vanilla extract to the food processor and whiz until smooth. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ones and mix until just combined. Using a pair of spoons, place a walnut sized ball of dough onto the baking sheet and flatten it slightly. Repeat for the rest of the cookies. Bake for 10 minutes if you'd like soft cookies, 12-14 minutes (making sure the cookies don't burn) if you'd like crunchier ones.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Mac and "Cheese"

People are usually shocked when I say I've never had Kraft Mac and Cheese. It's not exactly a staple in Spain, and I guess the blue box and I never really crossed paths once I moved to the US. I have, however, had a few homemade versions of the classic which I thought were quite good, especially the baked ones. I mean, what's there not to like about pasta drenched in savory cheese sauce with a crunchy topping?

Well, most mac and cheese has a lot of dairy fat, you know, the kind that clogs your arteries and feels heavy in your belly. But it doesn't need to be that way, as I learned from Mark Bittman's recipe I read in the New York Times a couple weeks ago. By adding pureed cauliflower to the sauce he increases the amount of vegetables in the dish and makes it creamy with only 3/4 cup of cheese. Genius, as always.

Since Bittman's recipe sounded pretty tasty and was almost vegan I only had to make a couple changes. To give the sauce a fermented tangy taste, somewhat reminiscent of cheese, I used some miso and a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast. (An aside, if you've never cooked with nutritional yeast please make the extra trip to the specialty grocery store and get yourself some -- it's worth it). To make the sauce even creamier and increase the protein punch I blended some silken tofu along with the cauliflower. Lastly, since I'm not a huge fan of beige food I added some chopped kale for color and an extra serving of vegetables.

It was DE-LI-CIOUS (and I don't use hyphenated all caps lightly). I know it's not really summery food and that it requires turning on the oven in this sweltering heat (hopefully it's cooler wherever you are than it is in NC!) but you need to make this soon. Like yesterday. I promise you'll be surprised something so healthy can taste so good.

Creamy Vegan Cauliflower Mac and "Cheese"
Veganized and otherwise adapted from Mark Bittman's recipe
Makes 4 generous servings
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for greasing the baking dish
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 whole cauliflower, cored and roughly chopped into large florettes
  • 8 oz / 225 g short pasta such as elbow macaroni, penne or rotini (I used a mix of the last two), preferably whole wheat
  • 8 oz / 225 g silken tofu
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 teaspoons miso
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 cups stemmed and chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup panko or conventional breadcrumbs
1.  Preheat the oven to 400 F / 205 C. Grease your baking dish with some olive oil and set aside. I used a 7 by 11 inch pan and Bittman recommends a 9 inch square pan, but really just use what you've got. Place the stock in a small saucepan with the bay leaves and heat until just before it boils. Remove from the heat and set aside. Fill about 2/3 of a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Salt the water generously, add the cauliflower, cover the pot and cook the cauliflower until very tender, about 25 minutes. Remove it from the water with a slotted spoon and place it in the food processor. Fish the bay leaves out of the broth and add it to the food processor as well, along with the tofu, nutmeg, miso, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Process the mixture until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

2.  Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for about half of the time the package specifies (in my case this meant cooking my penne and rotini for about 5 minutes). If you bite a piece of pasta in half the inside should still be chalky. Drain the pasta and add it to a medium mixing bowl along with the kale. Pour in the pureed cauliflower mixture and toss until everything is evenly mixed. Empty the contents of the mixing bowl into your greased baking dish, smoothing the top with a spatula or a spoon. As Bittman points out, you could make the dish ahead up to this point and then refrigerate it. Take the casserole out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you're ready to bake it and proceed with the recipe. Mix together the remaining 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast and the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

3.  Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the breadcrumbs have browned. Serve hot, with a few dashes of hot sauce if you'd like.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thai Green Curry

I love Thai green curry. I always -- yes always -- choose it over the red and yellow curries available at most Thai restaurants. So, if I love it so much then why haven't I made it before? Laziness, really. "But Sara", you say, "you've posted some pretty time consuming dishes. How can you be put off by some curry?" Well, I don't know what to tell ya. I claimed to be lazy, not logical. Fact is, this weak I bit the bullet and tried my hand at my favorite Thai dish.

To be honest, I kind of winged it here. I threw a bunch of stuff in the pot that I thought should be in delicious Thai green curry, crossed my fingers and just hoped for the best. Well, the result was really really good but not as good as my favorite green curry (from Twisted Noodles, for those of you in the Triangle), probably because I missed some secret ingredient. Will I stop ordering from Twisted Noodles now that I can make a pretty good curry for far less than $10 per serving? Absolutely not. These two green curries will have to learn to peacefully share my and Austin's curry cravings.

Thai Green Curry
Makes 4 servings
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 oz firm or extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into about 3/4 inch / 2 cm cubes
  • 1 onion, halved and sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 jalapeños or Thai green chilies, seeded if you'd like and finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium new potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch / 1/2 cm thick half moons
  • 1 2/3 cups / 400 ml coconut milk (I used the light kind but the full fat stuff would be even more delicious)
  • 1 2/3 cups / 400 ml vegetable broth
  • 2/3 cups chopped cilantro
1.  In a medium skillet, heat 1/3 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the tofu cubes and fry, flipping occasionally, for about 25 minutes or until the tofu has browned on all sides. Remove from the oil using a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain.

2.  While the tofu is frying, pour the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Toss in the garlic, ginger and chilies and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in the curry paste. Add in the coconut milk, vegetable broth, salt and potatoes. Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper and the zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the tofu and simmer for 5 more minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

3.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cilantro. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve the curry hot, over rice or as a soup.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Miso Curry Zucchini, Potatoes, Tempeh and Kale

A couple days this week it was over 100 F (with the heat index) here in Durham, NC. In addition to making hell jealous with its temperatures, the air was so thick and humid you could practically swim laps through it. Let me tell you how fun it was to bike about about 10 pounds of veggies home (why, oh why did I order a gigantic cantaloupe from the CSA?) in that lovely weather. Ok, you probably get the picture so I'll spare you the details.

So after swearing up a storm at the heat all day long, what did I do when I got home? Well I cranked the oven up to 400 F of course! You're probably asking yourself why, pray tell, would you do such a thing? Because nothing stands between me and some roasted veggies. Nothing. Especially when they're savory, slightly spicy and overall delicious.

Miso-Curry Zuchini, Potatoes and Tempeh
Adapted from Super Natural Every Day, by Heidi Swanson
Makes 4 servings
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white miso paste (you could use red or yellow miso as well)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of red Thai curry paste (available in the International foods section of most grocery stores)
  • 12 oz / 340 g zucchini, summer squash, a combination or any other squash. I used zucchini and summer squash cut into 1/3 inch / 1 cm thick half moons but if you're using another type of squash you may want to cut it into 1/3 inch / 1 cm cubes.
  • 1 lb new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite size pieces
  • 8 oz tempeh, cut into 1/3 inch / 1 cm strips and then into bite size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cup destemmed and chopped kale
  • 1/3 cup roasted pepitas or pumkin seeds
  • 2/3 cup cilantro 
1.  Preheat your oven to 400 F / 205 C. Whisk together the olive oil, miso and curry. Place the potatoes, zucchini and squash, and tempeh into a large bowl and toss them with about 1/3 cup of the miso mixture until they're evenly coated. Turn the bowl onto a baking pan, lined with foil if you'd like, and cook for about 25-30 minutes, tossing once or twice along the way, or until the vegetables have browned. Make sure to watch the veggies and tempeh closely the last few minutes because they can burn pretty quickly.

2.  While the veggies are cooking, whisk the lemon juice into the remaining miso mixture. You can use the same bowl you used to toss the veggies in (holla for fewer dishes!). Toss in the kale and work the dressing into it vigorously with your hands. After a few minutes of doing so you should see the kale slightly wilt; that's when you know you're massaging it properly.

3.  Once the veggies are done, toss them in with the kale. Add the pepitas and the cilantro and give everything one last toss. We ate this warm but I suspect it would be great at room temperature too.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

No Fat Added Mango Banana Scones

When I was a kid, we had a Marks and Spencer in our town which carried some pretty exotic (at least to me at the time) British treats. I remember my mom bringing home crumpets, shortbread cookies and, my favorites, scones. Deliciously buttery, doughy and only slightly sweet, they were tea time (and breakfast) perfection.

I'm sure part of what made those scones so tasty was an generous amount of butter. Now, if I could, I'd eat a (non-dairy) fat laden scone every time I craved one, but then I'd have to replace my whole wardrobe which would be an expensive proposition. When the need for scones strikes, I could whip up a batch of these oatmeal scones with strawberries. They're made with a modest amount of fat, some whole wheat flour, fruit and oatmeal so they're sort of healthy, right? Well since it's bathing suit season, but I still don't want to give up treats, I tried to get away with using no fat at all.

The result was pretty fantastic. While they're not nearly as decadent as the ones I remember from Marks & Spencer, they definitely hit the spot. They go stale pretty quickly though, like most fat-free baked goods. Fear not though, you don't have to eat all eight scones in one go (although you might want to). Give them a 15-30 second zap in the microwave or slowly warm them up the toaster oven and they'll be almost as good as freshly baked. If you're one of those people that has diet drinks with rich meals, you might want to to slather some Earth Balance onto these fat free goodies. Some preserves would lovely be on them too if you'd like to keep it light. If you're a true scone lover like me, though, you might want to eat them straight up, so as not to mess with their deliciousness.

No Fat Added Mango Banana Scones
Makes 8 scones
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour plus a little extra for dusting
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium banana (make sure to use one that's on the greener side and has been in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to an hour), coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla non-dairy milk (if using unflavored milk add 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
  • Zest of 1 medium lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup chopped mango (or any other fruit you'd like)
  • Optional: Confectioners sugar for dusting 
1.  Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C. In the bowl of your food processor, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Pulse a few times to mix. Add the banana and pulse until you can see about pea sized pieces of banana in the flour mixture.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk, lemon zest, juice and vanilla if using. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix with a few strokes of a spatula. Add the mango and mix the dough until just combined. Try not to overmix the dough or you'll end up with tough scones. The dough will be pretty sticky, but don't worry, it will work out in the end.

3.  With lightly floured hands, form a ball with an eighth of the dough. Place the ball on a parchment lined or greased baking sheet and flatten it slightly. Repeat for the remaining seven scones. Bake in the middle rack of your oven for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into one of them comes out clean and the bottoms are golden brown. For some extra sweetness and a pretty touch, dust the scones with some confectioners sugar. Server warm, with some non-dairy butter and/or preserves if you'd like.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Squash and Israeli Couscous Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Last Sunday, Austin and I had attended a pre-Independence celebration at one of his coworker's houses on Lake Gaston. About an hour before we were supposed to leave, we still hadn't made anything and our fridge was looking pretty barren. 'Twas make-it-work time. In less than half an hour I took all the veggies we had left, some basil, and a few pantry items, threw them together and voilá, a couscous salad emerged. We both tried it and deemed potluck worthy, but I wasn't sure how well it would go over with the burger-loving guests. 

The other vegetarian party goers totally approved of the salad, which I had kind of expected. After all, they probably thought they'd be the only ones bringing plant-based food. I was shocked though when another guest, who I'm pretty sure isn't big into salads or couscous, started raving about the salad. He became my salad's PR rep, making rounds and telling everyone "Hey, have you tried the couscous salad? You have to, man, it's delicious!!". It was hilarious and, of course, really flattering.

Sorry I didn't share this with you all in time for the 4th, but I hopefully you'll be able to come up with an excuse to make it soon.

Squash and Israeli Couscous Salad with Basil Vinaigrette 
Makes 6 servings
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat (or regular) Israeli couscous
  • Scant 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth (you can use water in a pinch, but broth gives the couscous better flavor)
  • 1 cup packed basil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 medium summer squash, spiralized into ribbons or cut into strips using a vegetable peeler
  • 1 small zucchini, spiralized into ribbons or cut into strips using a vegetable peeler
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, quartered and thinly sliced (I just realized I have a pretty thick slice of onion in the picture. Oh well, do as I suggest, not as I do.)
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can great northern, canellini, or pinto beans
  • Optional: Torn basil for garish
1.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally, until it's toasted which should take 5-7 minutes. Pour in the vegetable broth or water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 6 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let rest covered for about 10 minutes. Whatever Israeli couscous you buy may need more or less liquid and its cooking time may vary from what I've indicated, so make sure you follow the instructions on the package.

2.  While the couscous is cooking, prep your veggies and make the dressing. In a mini food processor (or a regular one, if that's all you've got) combine the the remaining olive oil, basil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and process until smooth. Combine the squash, zucchini, tomatoes, onion and beans in a large mixing or salad bowl. Fluff up the couscous with a fork and add it to the bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat evenly. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with torn basil if you'd like.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Morrocan Chickpeas and Zucchini

At the end of last week, while other food bloggers were busy listing their most Independence Day worthy recipes I let my blog go dark and skipped from barbecue to barbecue. Blogger fail. Sorry. Something blogworthy did come out of this weekend though: I made an amazing couscous salad I'll share with you later this week, so stay tuned.

The downside of attending several early celebrations is that by the time July 4th proper actually rolled around, Austin and I had eaten enough festive fare. We wanted anything but more grilled tempeh, cold salads and watermelon. It was also pouring like crazy in Durham, and that kind of weather always makes me want warm food, even if it's still in the 70s. So stew it was. I went with a Moskowitz creation and, as usual, it didn't disappoint. This stew packs some serious flavor, and takes under an hour to make (most of that time is inactive). We served it over Israeli couscous, seasoned with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. It was the perfect antidote to a weekend of not-so-perfect eating.

Morrocan Chickpeas and Zucchini
Adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Appetite for Reduction
Makes 6 servings
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated or minced ginger
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup vegetable broth
  • 3 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise then chopped into 2 in / 5 cm pieces
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into 1/4 in / 1/2 cm thick half moons
  • 1 28 oz / 795 g whole tomatoes, roughly broken into pieces with your hands
  • 2 15 oz / 425 g cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1.  In a medium to large pot or deep pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, or about 5 minutes. Toss in the garlic, ginger and red pepper, cooking for another 2 minutes. Mix in the rest of the spices and the salt and cook for about a minute.

2.  Pour in the vegetable broth and add the carrots. Cover the pot and bring the stew to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the zucchini and the broken up tomatoes with their juice. Cover the pot again, and gently boil for 15 more minutes. Mix in the chickpeas, partially cover the pot and cook for another 10 minutes. If using the mint, stir it in right before removing the pot from the heat. Serve hot over couscous or rice.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Black Pepper Tempeh

I already gushed about how much I love Heidi Swanson's blog, 101 Cookbooks, and her new book, Super Natural Every Day, in this post so I'll spare you an encore. I will say that this though -- this recipe is every bit as great the mushroom, asparagus and tempeh sauté I wrote about a couple weeks ago. Actually, it may even be better.

Even though it's a quick, one-pan meal, it doesn't sacrifice healthfulness or flavor. The soy sauce and maple syrup provide the perfect --in my opinion-- balance of sweet and savory. The garlic (and there's a lot of it; garlic lovers rejoice!) and onions are a tad sweet and very tender, thanks to the slow cooking process. The cauliflower provides nice texture, adds some veggies to the mix and it serves as a perfect vessel for the sauce. Now, I'm usually not a huge cauliflower fan (unless it's mashed up with potatoes) but cooked this way I could eat it by the pound. The star of the dish is, of course, the tempeh. Nicely soaked in sauce, slightly caramelized, and a tad spicy, it's a such a tasty way to get your protein.

We've already made this twice and I'm sure it's going to become a staple, especially since Austin loved it too. We paired it with some delicious sweet corn from the farm (almost as good as New England corn, shocking!) and had ourselves a perfect summer meal.

What quick summer meals are you enjoying these days?

Black Pepper Tempeh
Adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day
Makes 3-4 servings
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 15 (no, that's not a typo) garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 8 oz / 225 g tempeh, cut into pencil-thickness strips, then again into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 medium head cauliflower, finely chopped 
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Optional: 2 loosely packed cups arugula
1.  In a large pan over low heat, combine the oil, onions, red pepper, garlic and ginger. Cook slowly until the garlic has cooked through, which should take about 15-20 minutes. While the garlic is cooking, mix the soy sauce, maple syrup or sugar and water in a small bowl.

2.  Once the garlic is cooked through, raise the heat to medium-high and add the tempeh. Cook for about 3 minutes, making sure the other ingredients don't burn, then add the soy sauce mixture. Cover the pan and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the cauliflower, cover again and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the tempeh and cauliflower start to brown, which should take another 3-5 minutes or so. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the black pepper. Serve immediately, on a bed of arugula if you'd like.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Low(er) Fat Three Bean and Potato Salad

There's a very simple reason why I have a tag just for potatoes: I love 'em. In the summer, especially in blazing hot NC, my favorite way to eat them is in a salad. About a month ago, I shared a variation of my go-to potato salad recipe (and another chapter of the anti-mayo chronicles). The salad is delicious, in no small part thanks to 1/3 cup of olive oil, or 1 1/4 tablespoon per each serving. I don't know about you, but that's honestly not enough fat to make me think twice. That's why I hadn't considered making a leaner dressing until about a week ago, when I came across a recipe on Fat Free Vegan Kitchen for a (not surprisingly) fat free potato salad. I thought I'd give it try because, after all, it is bikini season.

My version of the salad does have some oil (couldn't part with all of it, sorry!), but only 3 tablespoons, or 1/2 tablespoons per serving. That's less than half of the fat in the potato salad I mentioned earlier. So, what's the secret? How does one make a creamy dressing without the extra oil? Blended potatoes! When combined with a bit of oil, vinegar, some herbs, garlic, salt and spices they form a thick and tasty dressing. Is Susan Voisin a food magician or what? Using a potato-based dressing will obviously yield a lighter salad, but I'd say one that's just as enjoyable.

Low(er) Fat Three Bean and Potato Salad
Makes 6 servings
Adapted from Susan Voisin's Potato-Green Bean Salad
  • 1 3/4 lbs / 795 g new red potatoes (another variety will work too), scrubbed and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 lb / 455 g green beans, ends trimmed and washed
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced small
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 5 tablespoons apple cider (or other) vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon miso
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 heaping tablespoon parsley
1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and add the potatoes. Cook them for about 8-13 minutes or until a little under done. Add in the green beans and continue to cook for another 3 or so minutes. Drain the potatoes and the green beans by pouring the contents of the pot into a colander. Quickly rinse the vegetables in cold water and then plunge the colander into a big bowl filled with ice and water; this will stop the cooking process. Once the potatoes and green beans are cool, pull them out of the ice bath and let them drain.

2.  Combine the garbanzo and kidney beans, bell pepper, celery and onion in a large bowl. Add the potatoes and green beans. Take about 1/2 cup of potatoes and toss them in a small food processor along with the olive oil, garlic, vinegar, miso, salt, pepper and parsley. Process until smooth. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Take a few test bites and adjust the dressing to your taste. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Vegan Baked Chiles Rellenos (Stuffed Peppers)

How many green bell peppers or poblanos can you and your family go through in a week? Well, call me uninventive, but I think it's pretty hard to work more than a few of them into week's worth of meals without thinking "Enough!!". How did I find myself with a surplus of peppers, wondering such things?  My CSA, of course. One of the reasons I like being a part of it is that it challenges me think of new ways to prepare both strange and familiar vegetables, sometimes en masse. Case in point -- these chiles rellenos.

Ok, so I cheated. Again. In several ways. These stuffed peppers aren't battered and deep fried, like the real deal, nor did I serve them with a sauce (although you certainly could). Also, they're labeled "Mexican" not because they're authentic, but because of the concept and flavors they were inspired by. Lastly, they were supposed to have a cheese-like topping made with silken tofu but Whole Foods didn't have any (surprising, I know). They did, however, have Daiya -- a tapioca and arrowroot flour-based vegan cheese substitute (delicious sounding, huh?) -- in the same case as the tofu. Yes, Daiya is an ultra-processed fankenfood and therefore totally against the "For Real" part of this blog. It did taste suspiciously like the real deal though, and melted as promised, but I still won't be buying it regularly. So now that you've read all these caveats, I present to you these bastardized chiles rellenos. Enjoy!

Oh, and if you have any other ideas for how to get rid of tons of green peppers, please send them my way.   

Vegan Baked Chiles Rellenos (Stuffed Peppers)
Makes 2-3 servings
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small tomatillo or red tomato, diced
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 chipotles in adobo sauce (you can find them canned in most Hispanic foods sections), seeded if you don't like heat
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons of your favorite salsa (I used Herdez's Salsa Casera)
  • 3/4 cup cheddar style Daiya or other cheese substitute
  • 4 smallish green bell or medium-large poblano peppers, halved lengthwise, seeded and deveined
  • 1/4 cup panko (or conventional) breadcrumbs
  • Optional: 1/8-1/4 teaspoon dried chipotle or cayenne pepper, a few leaves of cilantro for garnish
1.  Preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C. In a medium pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Toss in the onions and let them soften for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another couple minutes. Stir in the tomatillo or tomato and cook until it starts to release some of its liquid, which should take 4 minutes or so. Add the garbanzos, chipotle, spices and salt, and cook until the garbanzos are warmed through. Using a potato masher or a fork, mash the garbanzos until you're left with mostly quarter and half beans. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the salsa and 1/2 cup of Daiya.

2.  Stuff each pepper with 1/8 of the garbanzo mixture and place it cut side up on a foil lined or greased baking sheet.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of Daiya and the breadcrumbs on top of the peppers. Bake in the top third of your oven for 20-25 minutes or until the peppers have softened and the tops have browned. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vegan Moussaka

Last week I had a serious craving for moussaka, one that needed to be satisfied immediately. While I've had the dish several times I'd never made it before so, full of hope, I consulted one of my first and favorite vegan cookbooks -- Veganomicon. For me, Veganomicon is to food what Zara is to clothing, a resource I can count on to never disappoint. Sure enough, I found a vegan moussaka recipe, one that promised deliciousness no less. And deliciousness is exactly what it delivered.

If you love eggplant, zucchini and potatoes as much as I do you absolutely have to (I put that in italics, people, which I save only for special occasions) give this moussaka a try. The preparation is a bit laborious (bear with me) but please don't be instantly put off. I promise it's not as bad as it initially seems if you make some components of the dish while others are cooking largely unattended. Also, I know the idea of having the oven on for over an hour at this time of year makes some of you break out in hives, but just trust that this is worth cranking up the AC for or just wiping the sweat of your brow.

Vegan Moussaka with Macadamia Nut Cream
Adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terri Hope Romero's Veganomicon
Makes about 6 servings

Vegetable Layers 
  • 1 lb / 455 g eggplant
  • 1 lb / 455 g zucchini
  • 1 3/4 lbs / 795 g russet potatoes (another variety will do too)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup vegetable broth or red wine
  • 1 28 oz / 795 g can diced or crushed tomatoes and their juice
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Macadamia Nut Cream
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, preferably soaked for at least 8 hours (the original recipe called for pine nuts, which are much more expensive, but you can use those, without soaking, if you'd like)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lb / 455 g lite silken tofu (regular silken tofu is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1.  Preheat the oven to 400 F / 205 C. Either wash and scrub your eggplant, zucchini and potatoes or peel them (I decided to leave the skins on). Cut the vegetables lengthwise into 1/4 inch / 3/4 cm slices. Place each vegetable on a separate baking sheet with as little overlap as possible, drizzle them with the olive oil and sprinkle them with the salt. Bake the eggplant and the zucchini for 15 minutes or until tender, and the potatoes for 20 minutes or until brown around the edges. If you don't have three baking sheets, or three racks in your oven (I have two of each) bake the vegetables in batches. I baked the zucchini and the eggplant first, then the potatoes. Once the zucchini are cool enough to handle, grab a bunch of slices and gently squeeze out as much of their moisture as possible. This will prevent your moussaka from being too watery.

2.  While the vegetables are roasting, make your sauce. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots, sautéing for about 4-5 minutes or until the shallots are tender and the garlic is fragrant. Pour in the vegetable broth or wine and cook until reduced by about half, which should take about another 5-7 minutes. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and simmer partially covered for about 10 minutes. Take the cover off and simmer for another 5 minutes.

3.  While your sauce is cooking, make the macadamia nut cream. Toss the macadamia nuts and the lemon juice into the food processor and pulse repeatedly, scrapping down the edges if necessary, until pulverized. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until completely smooth.

4.  To assemble the casserole, first place about 1/2 cup sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch / 23 by 33 cm pan. Arrange a layer of eggplant on top of the sauce, then a layer of potatoes, followed by a layer sauce and half of the breadcrumbs. Place all the zucchini on top of the breadcrumbs in a single layer and follow with single layers of eggplant, potatoes, sauce and bread crumbs. Pour the macadamia nut cream on top of the moussaka and smooth it out using a spatula. Bake the casserole in for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top starts to brown and crack. Let sit for about 10 minutes before slicing. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

I became somewhat obsessed with tomatillo salsa my junior year in college. I'd never had such green, tangy, spicy delicious stuff until then, and I definitely wasn't going to go without it while back in Spain for the summer. My mother and I scoured my home town in search of tomatillos, the green tomatoes with sticky husks that are the base for the salsa. Not even my mother's veggie and fruit guy, Luis, could get them for us. That's when we resorted to El Corte Inglés, because as my friend Ana says "Lo que no tenga El Corte Inglés no existe en España" ("If El Corte Inglés doesn't have it, it doesn't exist in Spain").

Well, El Corte Inglés might sell everything from houses to toothpaste, as well as most specialty groceries but it didn't have tomatillos. I realized the difficulty we had finding these suckers was probably the reason I hadn't tried green salsa until I moved to the US. So with a heavy heart and a pouty face I prepared myself for a salsa verde-less summer; red salsa would have to cut it. Fortunately, if you live in the US you will probably be able to find these funny looking nightshades in almost any well-stocked supermarket. If you live elsewhere, you may have to go on a scavenger hunt, which will hopefully have a happier ending than mine. Once you have a big bowl of homemade salsa in front of you, though, I promise whatever tomatillo-finding expedition you went on will seem worthwhile

I got my tomatillos in my weekly CSA box: it doesn't get much easier than that. Instead of boiling them, I stuck them under the broiler, along with some jalapeños and garlic, until they were charred, for a salsa with more depth of flavor. After blending it all together, and stirring in a few more ingredients I had a lot of salsa. So I did the only reasonable thing- I ate lots of it. I put tons on my black bean tacos, served it to my girlfriends with some tortilla chips, spooned some into a wrap... You get the point. In spite of my best salsa-eating efforts, I still have some left in the fridge but I can guarantee it won't survive the weekend.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)
Makes about 2 1/2 to 3 cups
  • 2 lbs / 910 g tomatillos, husks removed, washed, dried and halved
  • 2-3 jalapeños, seeded if you'd like
  • 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small red onion, diced small
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped
  • Optional: 1 small avocado, diced
1. Preheat your broiler, with your oven tray set about 4 inches or so away from it. On a greased sheet pan, arrange the tomatillos (cut side down), the jalapeños and the garlic. Drizzle with the olive oil and rub it in to make sure it coats all the ingredients. Place under the broiler until partially charred, or about 5-7 minutes. Flip everything with a spatula and broil the other side for about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Place the jalapeños in a bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Alternatively, place them in a paper bag and close it tightly. This will steam the charred skins off and make the jalapeños easier to peel. Once they're cool enough to handle, peel the jalapeños and the garlic cloves. You don't have to completely peel the tomatillos, just do your best to remove the blackened parts of the skin.

2. Place the tomatillos, jalapeños, garlic, lemon juice and salt in your food processor or blender and whiz until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the onion and the cilantro. If you'd also like to add avocado, I'd recommend doing so right before you're about to serve the salsa, to prevent it from getting mushy. Serve chilled or at room temperature over tostadas, black bean tacos, or with your favorite chips.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mushroom, Asparagus and Tempeh Sauté

For several years now I've been reading and loving Heidi Swanson's blog, 101 Cookbooks. So have tons of other people, actually, including critics who have bestowed lots of awards upon it. With its killer combination of healthy vegetarian recipes, beautiful photography and elegant prose it is definitely deserving of all those honors. Since I wanted Heidi's personal voice and wonderful food to have a permanent place on my shelf, I gifted myself a copy of her latest book - Super Natural Every Day.

The book is every bit as gorgeous as her blog. Most of the recipes include ingredients that most of us don't use on a daily basis (harissa, farro and green curry paste, just to name a few) but the end result is worth going on a grocery scavenger hunt. I didn't cook tempeh for years, precisely because I didn't want to go on a Whole Foods expedition. As of recently though, both Harris Teeter and Trader Joe's have started carrying it so I've put it on our regular protein rotation. I decided to substitute it for seitan in the Mushroom Sauté recipe in the book and the result was fantastic. Just ask my coworkers how good my leftovers smelled today.

Mushroom, Asparragus and Tempeh Sauté
Adapted from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day  
Makes 3 servings
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 8 oz / 230 g tempeh, cut into about 1/2 inch / 1.25 cm cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds or slivered almonds
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance or other non-dairy butter 
  • 9 oz / 255 g fresh mushrooms, sliced or cut into strips (I used a mix of shiitakes and creminis)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 14 oz / 340 g thin asparagus, though ends trimmed and cut into 1 inch / 2.5 cm pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
1.  In a large pan, heat 2 teaspoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the tempeh, sprinkle it with about 1/4 teaspoon salt and give it a stir. Once it's brown on one side, which should take a couple minutes, flip it with a spatula to give the other sides a chance to brown. Repeat until most sides are golden. About a couple minutes before the tempeh is done, toss in the sunflower seeds. Once the sunflower seeds are toasted, remove everything from the pan and set it aside. Wipe down the pan so you can use it for the mushrooms.

2.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of non-dairy butter over medium-high heat. Toss in the mushrooms and sauté them undisturbed for about 4 minutes or until their undersides are brown. Flip the mushrooms over with a spatula and let the other side brown. When the mushrooms are almost done, add the garlic, asparagus, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Give everything a quick stir and let it cook for about a minute.

3. Stir the tempeh and sunflower seeds back in and remove the pan from the heat. Add in the lemon zest and serve immediately. We enjoyed our sauté with these vegan twice baked potatoes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Roasted Summer Vegetable and Chickpea Salad

A few weeks ago Austin brought home dinner from Saladelia, the Mediterranean deli down the street. I asked for a vegetable side sampler, which he picked using his best judgment. When he got home and I saw he'd brought me some eggplant salad I thought "Yup, he knows me well".  I love almost any (vegetarian) dish containing it, and this salad was no exception. Besides roasted eggplant, it had chickpeas, tomatoes, parsley abd some spices I didn't bother to try and identify. Simple but delicious.

So delicious in fact, that I couldn't get it out of my head. When I got some Japanese eggplant in my CSA box, I knew I'd use it to make a similar dish. The thing is, I'd also gotten some squash and purple onions that I had no plans for, so they found a home in the salad too.  If it had been up to me, I would have left the eggplant unpeeled (especially since mine had particularly thin skin) but Austin probably wouldn't have been too happy. He says he hates eggplant, but when probed admits that it's really the skin he has problems with.

Even he enjoyed the salad, though. It was delicious the night I made it, but even better the next day once all the flavors had a chance to marry. So, if you also have to put a dent in your seasonal veggie supply, you won't be disappointed if you give this at try. I'm always looking for new ideas for how to cook summer veggies, so if you have a favorite way of decimating your squash and eggplant stash, please share it with me.

Roasted Summer Vegetable and Chickpea Salad
Makes about 4 servings
  • 1/2 lb eggplant, peeled, if you'd like, and chopped into about 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1 lb summer squash, halved if the squash is large, then sliced into about 1/3 inch rounds
  • 1 small red (or other) onion, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes, drained 
  • 1/2 cup packed chopped basil
  • 1/3 cup packed chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C. Arrange the eggplant, squash and onion in a single layer on a greased, foil or parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle the vegetables with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season them with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. Roast the vegetables for about 30 minutes or until they're tender and have started to brown in some places.

2. In a medium to large salad bowl, combine the chickpeas, fire roasted tomatoes, basil and parsley. Once the vegetables are roasted, add them to the bowl too. Drizzle the salad with the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Toss until all they ingredients are evenly coated. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you think it's necessary. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. I know I say this often, but the world won't come to an end if you eat this room temperature (or even warm, if you're really hungry).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cashew, Coconut and Date Bars

Eating breakfast is kind of ritual for me. I take my grapefruit, granola, green juice, smoothie, or whatever else I'm into eating at the time, and park myself front of my computer. While I eat, I catch up on my RSS feeds, read the paper, check Facebook and tend to my email. Not wanting to miss the excitement, Lira usually sits next to me in Austin's desk chair. This morning routine is a simple pleasure, but I consider it a vital one. It's so important to me, in fact, that I wake up about half an hour earlier than necessary just to fit it in. It probably seems a bit crazy to Austin, who goes about his mornings quite differently.

He follows the "get out the door as quickly as possible" schooMl of thought, which has resulted in him skipping breakfast for a while now. He says it's because "he doesn't have time" for it, which I'm almost certain means he'd rather sleep in an few extra minutes. I hate to get all "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" on him, but I do believe everyone should eat something before they start off their day. I thought if I made his breakfast as grab-and-go as possible he'd be more likely to actually eat something before lunch. That's where these bars come in.

I wanted to make a snack reminiscent of a Larabar, one that's vegan and made from just a few, relatively unprocessed ingredients. Specifically, I was thinking of the Cashew Cookie flavor, which has just two ingredients -- dates (mmm, nature's caramel!) and cashews. My bars have a higher nut to date ratio though, so if you'd like a chewier, stickier bar just increase the amount of dates to about 2-3 cups. You can also leave out the coconut or substitute it for something else, like chopped dried fruit or chocolate chips. The recipe below is just a guideline, so please experiment and make it your own.

I'm pleased to report that these bars were tasty enough to persuade Austin to eat breakfast several times this week. I'm sure he'll get sick of them eventually though, so I'd love to hear what portable breakfasts you all enjoy. 

Cashew, Coconut and Date Bars
Makes 8 bars
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 1/2 cup packed pitted dates, or about 17 large dates (they can be pricey, so I buy mine in bulk at Sam's)
  • 1/2 cup dried, unsweetened coconut
1.  Toss the cashews into the food processor and pulse a few times to chop them. Add the dates and the coconut, processing until the dates are chopped and the mixture starts to stick together. Try to form a golf size ball with the mixture. If it doesn't stick together, add more dates.

2.  Transfer the mixture to a parchment or plastic lined square or rectangular baking dish. If you have an 8 by 8 baking dish, use that. Evenly distribute the mixture along the bottom of the pan, pressing it down firmly. If, like me, you're using a larger baking dish, just spread the mixture along the pan until the bars are about 1/2 inch thick and even out the edge that doesn't touch the pan with your hands.

3.  Refrigerate the bars for at least 1 1/2 hours before carefully cutting them into 8 sections. If you've added more dates, you can probably get away with shortening chilling them for a shorter period of time. Individually wrap them, put them in plastic baggies or tupperware and store them in the fridge until you're ready to enjoy them. If left outside the fridge, they'll get softer and may not hold together as well, but they'll still be delicious.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Onion and Jalapeño Home Fries

Last Saturday was one of those days when vegging on the couch seems like the only reasonable thing to do. That's exactly what I was up to when Austin asked "Babe, how do you bake a potato in the microwave?". "Just pierce it with a fork and cook it for about 5-7 minutes, if it's small. Wait, why are you baking potatoes?", I said. "Home fries", he responded, then adding "What spices do you think the people at Rick's use on theirs?".  "If I give you my best guess will you make me some?",  I tentatively asked. "Already planned on it", he replied. "I think they use chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper". Yes! If his home fries were even half as good as the ones at Rick's I'd be having a great breakfast.

You see, I power ballad love the home fries at Rick's Diner (I've been known to make them my one and only brunch item). You may not share my enthusiasm if you prefer your home fries dry and crispy on the outside, though. The ones at Rick's are soft, moist, slightly spicy and have a hint of sweetness from the softened onions. Austin's rendition was almost identical to the original dish except for the addition of jalapeños. I really enjoyed the flavor they provided and, since they were seeded, they didn't overwhelm the potatoes. I thought they were so delicious that I ate my share and then snagged a few of Austin's while he wasn't looking.

Of course, Austin didn't measure any of the ingredients so in order to write down the recipe I had to make these again on Sunday. Home fries two mornings in a row? I won't say not to that! And after you taste these, you'll won't either.

Onion and Jalapeño Home Fries 
Inspired by the home fries at Rick's Diner
Makes 2 potato fiend servings, 3 normal ones
  • 1 lb 3 oz / 540 g young red (or other) potatoes, scrubbed clean and dried
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and julienned
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1.  Pierce each potato a few times with a fork. If you'd like to do this more elegantly, bake the potatoes at 350 F / 175 C for about 45 minutes to one hour (young potatoes are smaller and less starchy so they don't take as long to bake) or until just tender. If, like Austin and me, you don't mind taking a dirty shortcut, you can bake your potatoes in the microwave. To do so, make sure they're all roughly the same size. If that means cutting larger potatoes in half, do so. Place the potatoes on a microwave safe plate and microwave them on high for about 5-7 minutes, or until they're tender, but not falling apart.
2.  While your potatoes are cooking, heat the oil over medium heat in a medium pan. Add the onions and cook them about 3 minutes or until they start to soften. Toss in the jalapeños, and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Slice the potatoes into bite-sized pieces, and add them to pan along with the spices and the salt. Give the mixture a good toss, to make sure everything is evenly coated and cook, stirring a couple times, for about 4 minutes. Serve piping hot alongside the rest of your brunch or, if you're an indulgent potato lover like me, all by themselves.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Falafel with Tahini Sauce

I've made falafel at home about a half dozen times, from as many recipes, and it's never really turned out right. While most of my patties tasted fine, few of them actually had the right texture or held together. Some of these falafel fails are on me, though. I thought I could make baked falafel as crunchy as the stuff cooked in a deep fryer, and that falafel "fried" in a nonstick skillet seasoned with a measly teaspoon of oil would surely result in a wonderfully crispy exterior. Nope, not at all. This week I tried yet another recipe, and I'm happy to report that my minor tweaks didn't end in disaster. 

A quick Google search for "authentic falafel" (because if it's authentic I can't mess it up, right?) led me to this recipe by Mordehai (Moti) Zadik. Next to the recipe is a picture of it's creator, Moti, and I could see in his friendly and wise face that he had the secret to the perfect falafel (but don't trust me, you be the judge of his apparent culinary wisdom). 

Feeling good about my decision to trust Moti's expertise, I read the recipe instructions carefully, and then proceeded to do the usual -- do things slightly differently. I couldn't be bothered to soak dried chickpeas overnight (mainly because I almost always buy them canned, gasp!) so, as Moti reluctantly suggests in the recipe, I used a can. He also instructs readers to let the mixture sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Well, it was a weeknight and we were hungry so one and half hours would have to do. I fried up the falafel in a generous amount of oil and they turned out exactly how I'd hoped, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. My falafel fail streak is officially over.

Adapted from Mordehai (Moti) Zadik's recipe 
Makes about 8-9 falafel balls
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can chickpea, rinsed and drained
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons whole wheat (or all purpose) flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • About 1/2 - 1 cup canola (or other vegetable oil)
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
 1.  Toss the chickpeas, garlic, baking powder, flour, spices, and salt in the food processor and pulse until the chickpeas are broken down and a dough starts to form, scrapping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Add in the fresh herbs and pulse a few more times until they're chopped small, but not so much that they completely blend into the dough. 

2.  Transfer the chickpea mixture into a bowl, add the onions and mix them in using your hands. At this point, you should be able to take a small hand full of the dough, form a ball and have it retain its shape. My dough came out just the right, but all it takes is a particularly juicy or dry onion to offset that delicate moisture balance. If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time. If the dough is too wet, add more flour 1/2 of a tablespoon at a time. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, put it in the fridge and let it rest for at least 1 1/2 hours, although 2-3 would probably be even better. Letting it rest will make it even easier to form dough balls and have them stay together.

3.  Put enough oil in a small pan so that it comes up about 1/2 inch. Heat the oil over medium to medium high heat, making sure not to let it smoke. When you drop a bit of dough in the oil and it sizzles immediately you're ready to start frying. Divide your dough into 8-9 portions and roll them into balls. Flatten them slightly and drop them in 3-4 at a time. Once the falafel are golden brown on their undersides, which should take about 3 minutes, flip them and cook them for another 3 minutes or so. When they're browned on both sides, transfer them to a plate lined with a couple paper towels. Serve them hot, with a generous drizzle of tahini sauce. I ate mine over greens but you can also stuff them in a pita with tomatoes, greens, and whatever other vegetables you'd like.

Tahini Sauce
Makes about 3/4 cup

  • 1/4 cup tanihi
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
Put all the ingredients except the parsley in the food processor (a mini one or a Magic Bullet works best for this) and blend until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the parsley. Drizzle over falafel, use as a veggie dip or a salad dressing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Oatmeal Carrot Muffins

A couple days ago I was sitting on my couch, thinking "I really wish I had a piece of cake to dig into". I could have left the house to procure myself a sweet treat, but instead I went all DIY on my craving and make some muffins. Now, if I'd really had my heart sent on devouring the most similar treat to cake in the shortest amount of time I should have made cupcakes, but on that lazy night some muffins were going to have to cut it.

These muffins are mildly spiced, not overly sweet, dense and delicious. Not only did they satisfy my immediate need for something dessert-like, they also were great for breakfast for the next couple of days. So, if you're in the mood for a quick, moderately healthy, carrot cake substitute (sans frosting) these muffins are for you!

Oatmeal Carrot Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons / 6 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds or ground flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup almond or other non-dairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick oats, processed until almost flour-like (leaving some half or quarter oats is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 2 cups grated carrots, loosely packed
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used coconut oil, which is solid at room temperature, melted in the microwave)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C. Grease a muffin tin or put paper liners in each cup. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the water and the chia or flax seeds together. Set aside for about 5-10 minutes or until the mixture is gelatinous. In a mixing cup or small bowl, combine the vinegar with the almond milk. Measure the dry ingredients while the liquid curdles.
2.  Combine the flours, processed oats, spices, baking soda and baking powder in a large bowl. Once the dry ingredients are mixed, toss the carrots until they're evenly coated.
3.  Pour the curdled milk into the chia or flax seed mixture, which after about 10 minutes should have a gelatinous texture. Whisk in the brown sugar, vegetable oil and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
4.  Fill each of the muffin tin cups with batter to the top. Bake for about 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the muffin comes out clean.