Thursday, September 6, 2012

Vegan Bahn Mi

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This is a special VB creation (with semi-helpful suggestions from me). Making a good sandwich is an art and he's the resident sandwich specialist. Since I didn't make it, this recipe will be a bit vague. But I think it will be simple enough. OR. You can just go to Lee's Sandwiches. But what's the fun in that?

For this vegan bahn mi, you'll need:
  • 1 French baguette
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 small daikon radish, shredded
  • 1 16-ounce container of extra firm tofu, sliced into half inch pieces
  • 2 portabella mushrooms, sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon grated garlic
  • 2 Thai chilies, minced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, sliced thinly length-wise
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon white vinegar or rice wine vinegar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (omit if you're using rice wine vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegannaise
  • salt to taste
  • cilantro (with stems) for garnish
Begin by marinating tofu and mushrooms with soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, grated ginger, grated garlic and minced Thai chilies. Season with salt if desired. Set aside for at least 2 hours.

Mix together 1/4 cup vinegar, sugar (if using), shredded daikon, shredded carrots, and a pinch of salt. Mix well and set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place tofu and mushrooms into separate oven-proof containers that are lightly greased with olive oil or canola oil. Be sure to squeeze out any excess liquid. The tofu will take approximately 45 minutes until the edges become crispy and browned. Mushrooms will take about 20 minutes to become cooked. So be sure to place tofu in the oven first before putting the mushrooms in. Check midway through and flip if necessary.

When you're ready to assemble sandwich, slice baguette length-wise in half but leave one end attached. Scoop out excess bread inside. Spread vegannaise on one side. Layer in baked tofu, mushrooms, then sliced cucumbers, carrot/daikon slaw, sliced jalapenos and cilantro.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Patio Farming

Pin It As we did the last few years, we planted tomatoes, peppers and herbs for the summer. Due to the lack of space, we planted them in pots on our patio. So, it's like suburban patio farming of sorts. Despite the lack of space, I was pretty pleased with our harvest. For the tomatoes, we started from seeds and grew them into huge tomato plants.

We grew two types of tomatoes this year. This is Big Rainbow.

This is San Marzano.

These were Big Bertha and Yellow Bell. But on our weekend away, someone stole our Big Bertha (it was really big then) and one bell pepper. What has the world come to?
We also have Anaheim and jalapeno peppers.
We also planted a dwarf Meyer lemon tree. Lots of blossoms and lemons already.
Harvested Big Rainbow and San Marzano. The San Marzanos suffered a bit from blossom rut, but the Big Rainbows turned out beautifully.
See what I mean? This is the Big Rainbow after it has been sliced diagonally.
Overall, pretty successful despite our unfortunate pepper theft incident. At least I hope someone got to have some great peppers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Zucchini Cakes

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Long time no post. Lots of things happening. Busy. Busy. I haven't had time to cook or to go grocery shopping (or updating the blog, for that matter), so we've been subsisting on zucchinis from VB's co-worker's home garden. We've had a lot of zucchinis. A LOT. This happens to be the best zucchini recipe that I made recently. I like the mild Yukon potatoes paired with the fresh, green zucchinis and the crunch of the celery in these zucchini cakes.

For this zucchini cake, you will need:
  • 2 medium zucchinis
  • 4 medium Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
Start by grating the zucchinis into a large mixing bowl. Season with salt. Allow the zucchinis to stand and release its moisture, about 15 minutes. In the meantime, peel and cube potatoes and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Insert fork into the potatoes. If fork penetrates easily, the potatoes are done. Otherwise repeat on high for 2 minutes each time until potatoes are done. Rice or mash the potatoes in a separate mixing bowl.

Squeeze the zucchini mixture until the mixture is fairly dry. Mix with mashed potatoes, celery, bread crumbs and salt. Make fist size balls and then flatten into patties.

In a medium nonstick pan, heat up one tablespoon of olive oil. Add patties and gently pan fry until browned on each side, about 3-5 minutes per side. Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Five-Spice Roasted Sweet Potato and Farro with Balsamic Reduction

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Right now, the best deal at Milk Pail is the 99 cents for four pounds of sweet potatoes. FOUR POUNDS! It's not really sweet potato season, but who can pass up on this deal? I did something super simple to bring out the natural warmness and sweetness of the sweet potato. The five-spice powder consists of fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorn. These spices really compliment the warm creaminess of roasted sweet potatoes. The Balsamic reduction brightens and sweetens and the chewy nuttiness of the farro brings out its earthiness. It's got great balance and makes for a simple, nutritious side dish.

For this recipe, you will need:
  • 1 medium sweet potato (about 1 pound), peeled and diced to 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups cooked farro (if you don't have farro, short grain brown rice would be great here too)
  • 1 tablespoon of five-spice powder
  • 1 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • chopped green onion or chives for garnish
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Toss sweet potato and five spice powder with olive oil. Make sure the sweet potato is well coated with spices and olive oil. Spread out in an oven proof dish and roast for 30-45 minutes. Gently stir at the half way point. The edges should be browned and the center should be creamy. Remove and set aside to cool. Mix roasted sweet potato with cooked farro.

In a medium non-stick pan, bring Balsamic vinegar to boil, then turn heat to medium low so that the mixture is just simmer. Slowly reduce until the vinegar becomes thickened and syrupy. It should be about 1/3 of it's original volume and thick like molasses. When ready to serve, drizzle balsamic reduction on top of roasted sweet potato and farro mixture and garnish with chopped green onion or chives. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mystery Produce of the Week: Fresh Almonds

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Like raccoons to shiny objects (oooh, shinnnyyyyy), I can't resist a good mystery produce. So when I started grabbing these fuzzy green fruit by the fistful with elbows up and ready to defend my right to the new found mystery produce, an elderly lady came up to me and asked a very simple question, but one that I hadn't considered: "what are you going to do with those?" After muttering something along the lines of "shinnnnyyyyy" and "I dunno," I took these fresh almonds home without knowing much more than that.

My most helpful and knowledgeable friend (google) told me that these can be consumed as-is with some salt if they are very young and have yet formed a hard inner shell. I ate one and found out that, no, mine are not very young and indeed have the inner shell, rendering the fruit almost inedible as-is.

You can clearly see the inner shell that's around the almond.
So to make these edible, my friend told me that I need to crack these open and remove the seed, which are the almonds that we typically buy at grocery stores and remove their waxy skin so to make the almonds edible. It was a labor intensive process and my knife needs to be sharpened after cracking all these hard fruit.

Upper left are almonds after waxy skin has been peeled off. The yellow/brown ones have not been peeled.
After peeling all the almonds, I simply dry toasted them in a non-stick pan until slightly browned and drizzled them with some extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. The result was delicious but very hard to describe. The fresh almonds tasted nothing like the store bought variety. They almost have the consistency of coconut meat -- not chewy or crunchy at all, but smooth and fleshy. They are really not like anything that I've tasted before, so it's hard to describe them exactly. But to me, they taste slightly sweet and a little milky but green and bright. (Did I just describe something as green milk?) Try them if you find them in your local market. But you might have to fight me off first.

Grilling and Hiking on Independence Day

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Muggy view of downtown San Jose from Alum Rock Park.
Living in California is awesome 99.9% of the time. The other 0.1% of time, I yearn for more outdoor space so we can enjoy it all by cooking and eating outside all summer long. I'm still buying lottery tickets, but until we hit that jackpot, we have to head out to grill and picnic. It's usually problematic because a lot of the county parks do not have enough dedicated picnic areas or prohibit open flames, but after VB's very diligent searching, we found Alum Rock Park in San Jose. When VB told me that Alum Rock Park is the oldest city park in California, I immediately thought of swing sets and manicured lawn dotting by sad young saplings striving to become great big trees someday. But Alum Rock Park was none of that. It's got trails that lead to majestic view of downtown San Jose, lots of shade from mature trees and, best of all, many grilling and picnic areas.

I prepared some tofu kebobs ahead of time and marinated overnight with a sweet chile sauce, which was made by simply combining 4 chopped Thai red chilies, 1 tablespoon grated ginger, 1 tablespoon grated garlic (about 4 cloves), 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup white vinegar.

We also grilled some corn, jalapeno peppers, pineapples and homemade black bean burgers. The black bean burgers were topped with pineapple and jalapeno peppers for a sweet and spicy sandwich.

After lunch, we went on a hike and were treated to great scenery.

But it was getting oppressively hot and I felt the sunscreen melting off my face. So we heat out to Alviso Marina County Park for a change of scenery.

Alviso is an old cannery town by the Bay. Not much is left besides this marina, salt ponds and trains occasionally rolling by on the Amtrak rail. The salty cool breeze was really welcoming after being out in the blazing sun for the whole afternoon.

Happy 4th and hope you had a great Independence Day as well!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mediterranean Dinner

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It's officially summer. It's hot outside and cooking feels like such a chore. This is the time of year when I prefer no-fuss cooking that showcases the freshest summer produce available. So here, we have some simply roasted eggplants and golden zucchini with some diced ripe tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, green olives and tangy feta cheese on a basil mint lemon sauce. It's so simple but stunningly fresh and bright -- just the perfect summer meal. I served it with some homemade hummus, toasted pita, dolmades and roasted beets.

For the basil mint sauce, you will need:
  • 2 cups packed basil
  • 10-12 mint leaves
  • small handful Italian parsley (about 1/2 cup packed)
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
Blend all ingredients together into smooth sauce. That's it! You can also serve this sauce with some roasted artichokes and beets.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hemp Burger

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When I started this blog, my only goal was to make good vegetarian food that I want to eat. That means, making satisfying and soulful real food that happen to be vegetarian -- none of the bird/hippie food that carnivores associate with vegetarian/vegan meals. For the most part, I've avoided ingredients that you can only buy at health food stores and stuck with vegetables that can be found at any supermarket.

Now, that said, I took a big step away from what I usually make with this hemp burger. We bought a big bag of hulled hemp seeds at Costco and I made some patties by mixing the seeds with some tofu. It was a little weird working with hemp seeds. Maybe I've gone crazy, but the patty mixture totally tasted and smelled like egg yolks. That led me to think that the mixture would make good egg-less quiches -- but that's another experiment for another day. This hemp burger had good substance and texture -- super hearty when sandwiched between two slices of whole grain bread. The addition of pepitas made the burger more substantive and added a bit of crunch. Aside from tasting like egg yolks (again, maybe it's just me), the burger is pretty flavor neutral, which means you can add a ton of toppings and condiments.

For this hippie-dippie hemp burger, you'll need:
  • 1 cup hulled hemp seeds (I used Bob's Red Mill Hulled Hemp Seed)
  • 1 block (14 ounces) firm tofu
  • 1 cup cooked white rice (preferably day old, but if you don't have that handy, bread crumbs will do)
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted
  • 1/4 cup (about 2 stalks) green onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
To make the burgers, you will need:
  • burger buns or bread
  • toppings (I used tomatoes and spinach, but the possibilities are endless)
  • condiments (I really like whole grain mustard with this)
Mush everything together. Make sure that tofu is totally broken down and well integrated. Refrigerate for 30 minutes so the mixture can set up.

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper. Form about 6 patties and place them on the parchment paper. Spray the top of the patties with canola or olive oil spray (optional for better browning). Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 10 minutes. The top should be golden brown. Assemble your sandwich and consume.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Avocado, Jicama and Daikon Radish Gazpacho

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I got the idea for this gazpacho from encuentro, a wine bar in Oakland. I thought the idea of making gazpacho out of avocado is so ingenious that I had to try it for myself. For my version of this gazpacho, I added some Daikon radish to balance out the sweetness of the jicama and the creaminess of the avocado. I also added some spinach for its bright green color. The resulting gazpacho had a nice peppery finish -- a little bite in the end.

You will need:
  • flesh of 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 medium jicama, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup Daikon radish, peeled and diced
  • juice from 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
  • a small handful of spinach (about 1/4 cup packed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup filtered cold water
  • small diced jicama for garnish (optional)
  • mint for garnish (optional)
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for garnish (optional)
Begin by blending jicama and Daikon radish together in a blender with a cup of water. I thought that the jicama and Daikon radish mixture was too grainy and fibrous at this point, so I passed half of the mixture through a strainer and returned the resulting liquid back into the blender. Then add the remaining ingredients and blend together. If you're making this ahead of time, pour the gazpacho into a prep bowl and cover with plastic wrap. To prevent oxidation, make sure that the plastic wrap is directly on top of and in contact with the gazpacho. Refrigerate and serve cold with optional garnish on top.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Pin It Pictures of Tangerine and Raisin, because they are just too cute. They sleep and bird watch. You know, things cats are good at.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Birthday Dinner + Yonanas

Pin It For VB's birthday, I made him dinner comprised of dishes that he had mentioned that he'd like to try. So the mix is a bit... eclectic.

First up, we have a vegan mac n' cheese from Yeah, That "Vegan" Shit. I have to say, I'm not sure that there will ever be a vegan mac n' cheese that's going to come remotely close to the real deal, because real mac n' cheese is incomparably awesome. That said, this vegan mac n' cheese was good for what it is -- good for vegans, lousy for meat eaters.

We also had some ful muddamas from midEATS. You can sort of see it next to the dolmades (more on that later). By the way, did you know it's next to impossible to find some dried or canned fava beans around here? Seriously, I had to go to 4 stores and finally found them at Rose International Market, our local Middle Eastern market. I ended up adapting the recipes using dried fava beans -- turned out alright, a bit al dente but flavorful and pretty good.

Finally, I made some dolmades after we bought a jar of grape leaves at the farmer's market. I need a bit of practice wrapping the grape leaves tighter, but this turned out totally delicious -- by far the best item of the night. The recipe came from Tyler Florance (I know...) and it is a winner, if not a bit time consuming.

For dessert, we tried "frozen yogurt" made by Yonanas 902 Ice Cream Treat Maker. It's a bit of a misnomer, because technically, Yonanas makes mushed up frozen yogurt out of bananas. It's a pretty cool idea -- it grinds frozen bananas and other fruit into a mixture that has the texture and consistency of frozen yogurt. VB and I were both stunned that the product looks just like frozen yogurt. However, the product can turn a bit slimy (like mushed up bananas) after the mixture melts a little.

As for the taste, we added some frozen peaches and raspberries to the mixture. But this product is definitely for the banana lover in you, because even though it looks just like frozen yogurt, it still tastes like bananas. Also, I think there were some human errors involved -- the product required ripe bananas and mine were not quite as ripe. I wonder if I had riper bananas, the end result would be sweeter and of a better mouth feel and consistency. That means, we have to try this one again sometime soon! With ripe bananas, next time. I do think that this can potentially be a great product for vegans and others who want to enjoy a frozen treat without dairy or artificial products.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Braised Seitan My Way

Pin It As I mentioned in my last post, our earlier batch of braised seitan didn't come out the way we wanted. Seitan is actually a very easily manipulable protein -- it takes on flavors easily and it's impossible to overcook it. I think the previous batch didn't come out right because the recipe we used didn't use enough flavors or the right flavors, resulting in a bland, overly sweet product. Well, I'm not making that mistake again. For this braised seitan recipe, I'm adding lots of aromatics, herbs and spices. The result is anything but bland.

For this braised seitan recipe, you will need:
  • 18 ounces of cooked seitan (store bought or you can make my seitan recipe but be sure to shape the dough into palm sized chops)
  • 2 yellow onions, medium diced
  • 3 carrots, medium chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, medium chopped
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 3/4 bottle of red wine (I used Trader Joe's Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place seitan, onions, carrots, celery, thyme, rosemary, Bay leaves into a oven proof baking dish. Make sure there's enough room for liquid. Combine red wine, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic powder and onion powder. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture over seitan. Cover with aluminum foil and braise for 30 minutes.

Remove and flip the seitan. Cover and braise for another 30 minutes. Remove. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Return dish to the oven, uncovered, and roast for 20 minutes. Flip the seitan and roast for another 20 minutes. Check occasionally to see that there's enough liquid in the dish. You don't want to clean up a burnt-on mess.

Remove seitan. By now, the seitan should look deep brown and developed a little bit of a crust. It's virtually impossible to get the burned crusty bits on seitan like you can with real meat, so don't expect it to have quite the same crust. You now have braised seitan!

One serving suggestion is to slice this up and make a cheesesteak sandwich by sauteing seitan with some onions and then jam it into toasted French bread with some Cheez Whiz. Mmmm... Cheez Whiz (the spelling suggests industrial strength orange deliciousness). OR. You can use some vegan soy cheddar instead. But, as far as I know, you only live once -- so bring on the Cheez Whiz! FRFR3MD7WGCU

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vegan Steak and Potatoes

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We made some braised seitan that didn't come out the way we intended. It was made with a ton of onions and turned out just a bit too sweet. In order to avoid eating it for days, I decided to shake it up a little and turn the seitan into something different. I lightly pan fried the seitan with olive oil until the edges are browned and then I topped it with some vegan shiitake mushroom and red wine sauce. Voila! It looks just like a restaurant steak with steak sauce. I paired the steak with some sweet potato fries.

For this vegan steak topped with mushroom sauce, you will need:
  • 16 ounces seitan steak (store bought or you can make my seitan recipe but be sure to shape the dough into fist sized chunks)
  • 2 pints fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and sliced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced
  • 5 tablespoons butter substitute (I use Earth Balance), divided
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cracked pepper
To begin, heat up olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter substitute in a non-stick pan. Gently pan fry both sides of the seitan until browned. Set aside. In a medium sauce pan, melt 3 tablespoons butter substitute, then add minced thyme and rosemary. Stir and mix in sliced mushrooms. Cook gently until mushrooms are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in flour until all the mushrooms get sticky and flour browns a bit at the bottom. Pour in red wine and soy sauce. Scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits. Bring mixture to simmer and continue to cook until it thickens, about 2-5 minutes. Spoon over the top of pan fried seitan steaks and serve.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Fresh Fava Beans and Peas Bruschetta

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Over the past Memorial weekend, VB and I caught a baseball game in Oakland and stopped by encuentro cafe and wine bar afterwards. The review was mixed on this one: VB loved it and I thought it was too expensive and too much like bird food. But we agreed that their fresh peas and mint bruschetta was delicious. I had some fresh fava beans handy so I thought I'd make something similar at home.

It was my first time working with fava beans. I took some pictures to document the process, but they somehow disappeared when I tried to transfer them to my computer. (Don't you just hate it when that happens?) Anyway, fava beans have to be first shucked and then par boiled. After boiling in water for 2-4 minutes, the waxy skin wrapped around the beans can be peeled off or squeezed off. But the easiest way to get the skin off, for me, was to cut a slit with a sharp paring knife then peel. The resulting beans tasted fresh yet earthy, tender and green like fresh peas but not quite as sweet. I supplemented the fava beans with some thawed petite peas and roughly mushed them with olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. The result was pretty comparable to what we had at encuentro.

You'll need:
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh fava beans
  • 1 cup fresh peas or thawed petite peas
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • mint leaves for garnish
  • slices of crusty toasted bread
Roughly puree all ingredients together and spread it on crusty bread. Garnish with mint leaves. That's it! Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mystery Produce of the Week: Opo Squash

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Also known as hulu (葫蘆), opo squash is popular in Chinese dishes and often consumed in soup or stuffed with meat and steamed. It is prepared by peeling its skin and scooping out its seeds (although the seeds can be edible if the squash is fresh and young). It has a mild, sweet flavor. When cooked, it is delicate and soft without being mushy or mealy.

Since I can't stuff it with meat, I made soup. The challenge here is to make a flavorful soup without using chicken stock. Since this squash is very mild, it can be a bit flavorless without chicken stock. Instead of substituting with vegetable stock, I decided to boil it with water and shredded cabbage to add sweetness and some vegetarian chicken broth powder (still haven't figured out what that is exactly). I cooked the cabbage low and slow until it almost disintegrated in the soup and then added the squash and simmered for another 15 minutes.

Finally, to make sure it has some taste, I added.... bitter melon greens. Yes, those taste bitter. But at least you can't say the soup is bland! I like the fact that the bitter melon greens added a bit of depth to the soup, but I can see why some people won't find it palatable. Bitter melon is... an acquired taste. Frankly, I'm even not sure that I've acquired it yet. You can always leave it out or add some other dark greens.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Green(s) Pie

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This pie didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. Because it wasn't even supposed to be a pie! I was planning on making turnovers, but the pastry was not cooperating on a hot, humid day. So instead of struggling with stuffing and folding a dozen turnovers, I made one pie and patted myself on the back.

I stuffed this pie with a lot of nutritious greens and added aromatics like sage, thyme, onion and garlic. I also mixed in some cannellini bean puree that held the veggies together and gave the filling a creamy texture. The crust was golden, tender and flaky. Although I didn't successfully make turnovers, this was nevertheless a success.

You'll need:
  • 2 bunches dark greens (I used kale and rainbow chard, but you can also use spinach, mustard greens, and collard greens), tough stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 gloves garlic, minced
  • 3 sprigs sage, chopped
  • 4 sprigs thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional egg wash (1 beaten egg with 1 tablespoon water)
  • 1 portion pastry, recipe below
For the pastry, you'll need:
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, cubed and chilled
  • 3/4 cup vegan butter substitute (Earth Balance for me), cubed and chilled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • up to 5 tablespoons ice cold water
To begin, mix all purpose flour, chilled vegan butter spread, vegetable shortening salt until the mixture has a wet sand consistency. You can use food processor and pulse a few times or you can use your hands and break up the fat into finer granules. Mix in water, one tablespoon at a time. If you're using a food processor, add ice water one tablespoon at a time while pulsing. The dough should barely come together. You probably only need 2-3 tablespoons of water. When in doubt, retrain from adding more water. It's easy to add more water, but impossible to take it out. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill.

In a large pot fitted with a lid, begin heating up olive oil over medium heat. Add red pepper flakes to the oil. When pepper flakes start to sizzle, mix in diced onion and cook until translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Mix in garlic, sage and thyme. Cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add greens. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well together and cover for a 5-8 minutes over medium low heat. The greens should be just wilted and still bright green. Remove and set aside. Once cooled, add mixture into a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Wrapping the mixture in cheese cloth, squeeze out any excess liquid and place the mixture in mixing bowl. Add cannellini beans to the food processor and pulse until beans are mashed. Mix together the bean puree with vegetable mixture and apple cider vinegar. Set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place chilled dough onto a floured surface. Divide the dough in half and wrap up one half in plastic wrap and place it back in the refrigerator. Roll out the other half into a round disc 2 inches larger than the pie pan. Mold the dough into the pie pan and trim off any excess dough. (If you're working on a hot and humid day or the dough is too wet, try rolling the dough out in between two pieces of plastic wrap. The plastic wrap will help you to roll out the dough evenly without sticking and make the transfer to pie pan a lot easier.) Dock the dough with fork and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Fill the baked pie crust with vegetable mixture. Spread it out evenly with a spatula. Roll out the other piece of dough into a round disc big enough to cover the pie pan. Cut out some vent holes in the middle of the disc. Cover the pie with the dough. Crimp the edges by pushing down gently.  Brush with egg wash (omit if you want to keep this vegan). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until browned. Remove and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Black Eye Peas Salad

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This black eye peas salad is not the usual Southern side dish. I took a Mediterranean spin on this dish and added sweet paprika and olives. The result was fresh and delicious with creamy beans and crunchy veggies. And it's so quick and easy to make.

You'll need:
  • 1 cup dried black eye peas (or 1 15-ounce canned black eye peas, drain and rinsed)
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 25 to 30 black olives, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • salt to taste
A note on cooking dried black eye peas: I like cooking my beans with my trusty pressure cooker. It cooks beans perfectly without all the soaking and boiling for hours. I use a Fagor Duo 8QT. Pressure Cooker and place it on the high setting for 10 minutes for perfectly cooked black eye peas. But if you don't have a pressure cooker, you should soak black eye peas overnight and boil in a medium pot with a lot of water gently for 1 to 1.5 hours. I know... it's a pain in the butt. Makes me even more thankful for a pressure cooker.

Once you cook the black eye peas, toss together with the remaining ingredients. Let stand in room temperature for 30 minutes before serving or refrigerating.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Vegan Shepard's Pie

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A vegan Shepard's pie sounds like an oxymoron. A traditional Shepard's pie would contain ground lamb. I mean, otherwise, it's not really a Shepard's pie, right? In any event, for my vegan version of a Shepardless pie, I used pearl barley to replace the ground meat and to add texture and bulk to the pie. The result was healthy and flavorful. And it wasn't that hard to make!

For the mashed potato top layer, you'll need:
  • 3 pounds potato (or 5 large Russet potatoes, I used baby potatoes here), peeled and quartered
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter substitute
  • 3 tablespoons non-diary cream cheese or sour cream (I used Toffuti sour cream)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated soy cheddar
  • salt to taste
 For the bottom layer, you will need:
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • ground black pepper
  • salt to taste
To a large pot, add peeled and diced potatoes. Add enough water to the pot so that the potatoes are completely submerged. Cover. Turn heat up high and bring water to boil. Once boiling, set timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, check the potatoes by piercing them with a sharp knife. If potatoes can be pieced through easily, then they are done. Otherwise, continue to boil and check again in 5 minutes. Repeat until potatoes are done. Drain. While the potatoes are still hot, pass them through a ricer or a food mill. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Set aside.

To a large pot, add 4 cups water and pearl barley. Cover and bring to boil. Turn down to simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until pearl barley is cooked. The grain should be edible but should still be chewy. Drain and set aside.

In a medium pot, heat up olive oil. Add diced onion, carrots and celery. Stir and allow to cook until onion becomes translucent, about 8 minutes. Add minced garlic and thyme. Stir for a few minutes. Add soy sauce, vegetable stock, and black pepper. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in frozen peas and cooked pearl barley.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Pour vegetable and barley mixture into a 3 quart pan. Spread mixture to the edge evenly. Spread mashed potatoes on top. Sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until top is browned. Remove from oven and let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tomato Curried Lentils (Daal)

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Long time no blog! It's a classic case of life getting in the way of hobbies. I've been busy and also somewhat uninspired to cook. So. I'm going to try my best to get back in the kitchen and get inspired again.

Here, we have a simple, flavorful meal full of protein and fiber. I made some classic Indian curried lentils with rice pilaf made of brown Basmati rice and wild rice. This recipe is adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day. I added more spice to make this even more flavorful.

You'll need:
  • 1 medium onion, medium diced
  • 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 dried chilies
  • 1 fresh Thai chile
  • 1 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and diced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
Begin boiling water along with dried chilies and lentils in a medium pot. After water reaches boil, reduce to simmer and gently cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until lentils are slightly undercooked. Remove chilies, drain and set aside. Add onion, ginger and Thai chilies to a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.

In a medium pot, heat up vegetable oil. Add cumin seeds. Once seeds begin to pop, add onion ginger mixture. Turn heat to low and gently cook until onion becomes translucent. Stir occasionally. Add turmeric and stir. Stir in lentils, diced tomatoes and garam masala and bring mixture to boil. Season with salt. Reduce to simmer and cover. If mixture becomes too dry, add 1/2 cup of water each time and stir. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until tomato breaks down and mixture thickens. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with rice or roti.