January 30, 2008

Norman's chickpea snack

At a recent cooking class we made a chickpea snack that involved cooking, baking, frying and heavily seasoning chickpeas with cayenne and salt. The result was tasty, but it reminded me of a simpler and less salty and oily chickpea snack that my father used to make.

My mother believed that a good breakfast was eggs and bacon or cereal and milk, lunch was a tuna or egg salad sandwich, and dinner included meat and a salad and sometimes a frozen or canned vegetable like string beans or peas. My father didn't like chicken or fish so we had those things on nights he wasn't home for dinner. Meals rarely deviated from this formula unless we pleaded for spaghetti or for my father to make one of his two or three dishes. My mother seemed to have an aversion to legumes and noodles. Occasionally my father would become nostalgic for something his mother had made when he was a boy (my mother would become very annoyed) and might venture into the kitchen. He missed whole grain bread (!) and other "exotic" foods from his youth like chickpeas and macaroni. We ate white bread at our house and my mother would proclaim whole grain breads to be "horrible," but I was intrigued. I liked the things my father cooked. I was tired of meat. Chickpeas were interesting, and I happily ate them.

When I left home and moved to another city, I visited the local farmer's market out of curiosity, and my eyes were opened to the wonders of the vegetable world. "What's this?" I would ask as I held a zucchini aloft. "That's a zucchini," the bemused farmer would answer. "What do you do with it," I'd inquire. With a chuckle, the patient farmer and his wife would give me a cooking lesson. I think I learned to cook at the farmer's market.
When my husband and I became vegetarians, my parents were alarmed. When we chose to raise our children as vegetarians they were horrified, but as they watched these beautiful, healthy children grow, their fears subsided. And as they ate at our house and hosted us at theirs, their attitude towards food changed, and they became much more open and adventurous in their cooking and eating habits. Chickpeas became one of my mother's favorite foods to cook for us when we visited. But, I'm going back in time to when my father used to prepare one of his favorite chickpea dishes that he remembered his mother making. Now, I am presenting a vegan food that I learned to cook from my father! It's such a simple but delicious dish.

My father's chickpea snack
Rinse and drain two cups of canned or home-cooked chickpeas. In a cast iron or other heavy skillet, or a wok, heat two tablespoons of olive oil and add the chick peas. Sprinkle generously with paprika. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chick peas start to brown and get a little crispy. (about 10 minutes) Remove from the heat, drain on a paper towel if you wish, and sprinkle with a little salt and lots of freshly ground pepper, or, as always, with the seasonings of your choice.

A funny thing: I cooked the chickpeas and my husband and I were sitting at the kitchen table enjoying them and reminiscing about my late father and my grandmother when I suddenly shreiked, "STOP!." We'd made a considerable dent in the beans when I remembered I'd prepared them for the blog, and I'd forgotten to take a photo. So the photo you see is only some of the chickpeas—there were more.

note: To cook chickpeas in a pressure cooker: Sort and wash the beans. Place in the pressure cooker and add water to about two inches above the beans. Bring to pressure then turn off the burner. Let the beans sit for an hour. (You can let them sit longer if your schedule requires it.) Add more water and bring to pressure again and cook for one hour. When the pressure comes down, the beans should be cooked. The liquid that remains can be used to make excellent soup stock or to cook rice or other grains.

Mushroom and walnut paté

My husband and I attended a "vegetarian side dish" cooking class recently. The food was vegan and very tasty but had too much salt and oil for me. After years of eating healthy and delicious vegan cooking, my taste buds have become more sensitive, and when I sampled these foods all I could taste on the first bite was salt and oil. I think that most people would have found them delicious, but for me they were much too intense. I may season foods more heavily when cooking for company, but personally, I prefer to taste the foods themselves rather than the seasonings. One of the things we made in class was a walnut paté. The recipe only had 1 teaspoon of salt, which doesn't seem excessive, but it also had 3/4 cup of vegetable broth from a box. That stuff tends to be really salty unless you get the salt-free kind or make your own. And the recipe had 1/2 cup of oil in addition to the walnuts. So, using the teacher's recipe for inspiration, I've revised it to suit my taste, and if you make it, I hope you'll do the same and suit your own preferences.

I started by substituting mushrooms for half of the walnuts, and altering seasonings as well as ingredient proportions.

Walnut and mushroom paté
1 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped mushrooms
1 large onion, chopped
2–3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 slices whole grain bread, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 to 2 level teaspoons white miso
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
1 teaspoon natural sugar (sucanot, rapidura)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (more if you want it hotter)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (rubbed between hands to release oils)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

-Toast the walnuts in a 325˚ oven for 10 minutes or until starting to brown.
-Grind walnuts in a food processor.
-In a wok or large skillet, sauté onions and mushrooms in the olive oil until onions are translucent. Add garlic and sauté another minute. Add bread cubes and rosemary and mix together. Turn off heat.
-Place the miso in a glass measuring cup. Add the sugar, cayenne and vinegar. Stir until the miso is dissolved.
-Add sautéed veggies and miso mixture to food processor and purée until smooth.
-Taste for additional salt and pepper. When all seasonings are whizzed in, add the parsley and pulse a few times to distribute evenly. If you are using green onion, add with the parsley.

Place in a bowl and sprinkle generously with paprika and minced parsley or green onions. (These patés always look too beige or grey and need a little help to look as good as they taste.) Serve as a dip with veggies or chips, or a spread with crackers or bread.

note: I just had a sandwich of paté piled with salad greens and a spritz of lime on whole wheat toast and it was delicious.

January 26, 2008

Spinach Lorraine

My friend Lorraine is a wonderful artist and an excellent and creative cook. Whenever she describes some fantastic dish she's prepared, my first thought is to pack a bag and go live at her house. I'm far too lazy to re-create most of the lovely food items she describes, but the other day she e-mailed that she'd made something really easy and worthy of making again. I agree.

Lorraine said, "I did a sort of easy dish last week that makes me want to try it again. I browned a little fresh garlic in a dash of oil, added a splash of vinegar to reduce for just a minute. Then turned off the heat and threw in a lot of spinach and stirred it around. While I was waiting for it to wilt I sectioned a grapefruit into it and zested a little lemon. I wasn't sure how it would be but it was just the right mix of tangy, pungent and healthy!"

Sounded good to me so I tried it and she was right. It was excellent and easy. I made it with orange segments instead of grapefruit and it was festive as well as delicious. Try both! We had the spinach with cauliflower puree (see previous post) and garbanzo bean salad.

Some personal spinach history: When I was eight and the third child in our family was born, my mother needed bed rest and a nurse came to live at our house for a week. One of her duties was to keep us other kids from bothering our mother, and that included feeding us lunch. One day I was confronted with the most horrible and frightening blob of slimy green crud on my plate. It turned out to be creamed spinach which I'd never seen before and the tiniest taste of which made me gag. The nurse was mean, and said we had to eat it. I sneaked into my mother's room after lunch to tell her that I was sure the nurse was trying to poison us, and she should make her leave. Apparently the nurse tried to poison my mother with the same green slime and I found a sympathetic ear. It took me a long time before I was willing to try spinach again — and it was fresh spinach, which is a totally different vegetable.

January 23, 2008

Cauliflower purée

Hungry for supper, I looked into the refrigerator to see what was there and was alarmed to find way too much cauliflower. It seemed like a good idea to use some. I started thinking about a recipe I used to make when I was following a macrobiotic diet and avoiding potatoes. I used to make cauliflower-millet mashed potatoes which was actually made only with millet and cauliflower. It doesn't sound good but it was. Anyway, I guess the millet got tossed when I cleaned out the pantry, so I decided to make a cauliflower purée instead. Much to my surprise, it was fabulously delicious. It tasted so rich and wonderful that the only seasoning I used was a grind of fresh pepper. The taste and texture really was similar to mashed potatoes, only better. I suppose you could add margarine and soy milk if you wanted. I had mine on a plate with tempeh that had been stir fried with a small chopped red onion, and when the onion smooched over to the cauliflower, the taste was exciting. So, you might want to dress this up by sautéeing a small finely chopped onion, some minced garlic and maybe a small finely chopped red pepper and mixing it into the purée before serving.

Cauliflower purée
Cut the cauliflower into small florets and place in a pot. Add water to about halfway up the cauliflower. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat and cook, covered, until the cauliflower is VERY soft, about 10 minutes. Uncover the pot and cook until most of the water evaporates. (After cooking a head of cauliflower you should have no more than 1/4 cup of water left.) Place the cauliflower and remaining water into a food processor and process until smooth.
seasonings to taste: sauteed onion or garlic, fresh ground pepper, paprika, chopped parsley, margarine, salt

January 19, 2008

Oatmeal for a frigid morning

The temperature is minus 10˚ and heading to 1.˚ I shiver for a bowl of steaming oatmeal with raisins, dusted with cinnamon, drizzled with rice syrup and cuddled by an edge of soymilk. mmmm.

January 18, 2008

Chipotle black bean burgers / oven sweet potato fries

We just had a family cooking session. Our son makes great black bean burgers, and we invited him for dinner hoping he would make them. He came for dinner and ended up making the main dish — his excellent-tasting black bean burgers. I was the chopper and transcriber, running back and forth between the cutting board and the notepad trying to chop things one minute and write down the ingredients he was adding to the bowl in the next. My husband manned the oven and also made green beans. Our son does some extra stuff I don't do when I make burgers - I'm lazier than he is. He sautés the onions and garlic before adding them to the mix and I add them raw. He usually adds chopped mushrooms but we didn't have any. He added extra hot sauce and I don't. He always cooks the burgers on the stove and I often bake them. Are his better? Maybe.

Spicy Chipotle Black Bean Burgers
1 can black beans
1/2 cup frozen corn
2 cups dry bread crumbs (stale sourdough is the best) or about 6 slices crumbled up whole wheat bread)
1 very large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 large stalk celery, chopped fine
1/2 to 1 cup chopped mushrooms (optional. see note)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced (These come in a small can. Save the rest of the can for another use.)

Put the beans, crumbs, corn, chipotle and bread crumbs in a large bowl. Sauté the onions, celery and garlic for a few minutes in a small amount of oil. Add the paprika and mix. Add the sauté mix to the beans and mush up well with your hands until you have a cohesive mixture. If it's too soft, add more crumbs. Form into patties and cook on a non-stick griddle in a very small amount of oil until browned and firm. Serve on whole grain buns with lettuce and toppings of your choice.

To go with the burgers I cut some sweet potatoes for oven sweet potato fries. Cut them into 1/2 thick fingers and mix them with 2 to 3 finely minced cloves of garlic. (about 1 tablespoon) Spread them in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet, spray them with olive oil (or toss with a tablespoon of oil before spreading on the sheet). Bake in a pre-heated 475˚ oven for about 40 minutes or until soft but slightly crisp. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

note: These burgers had a slight tendency to break apart but they tasted great. I had some leftover cooked buckwheat that we substituted for half of the crumbs and maybe that had something to do with it. Or maybe they weren't mushed up enough. Also, last time we had these there was about 1 cup of chopped mushrooms in the sautéed mix and they added good flavor and texture. I would definitly recommend adding them.

January 15, 2008

Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies

 My husband was getting jealous of the blog. If you've been reading, you know that for the past six or seven years he's been doing most of the cooking and now that I'm getting interested in cooking again, he's feeling left out. All the recipes and photos so far have been for my stuff. I mean, it is my blog. So, last night he said he was making cookies and wanted me to photograph them and post them. Uh ... that depends, I said. I'm not photographing lumpy, bumpy all-different-sized cookies. There are rules here. They have to be easy to make, delicious and THEY HAVE TO LOOK GOOD. With a huff, he went into the kitchen. I was called in a short while later with a frenzied, "We don't have any maple syrup!" He was in the middle of putting ingredients into a large bowl. "Use Sucanot, I said."

The next time I was called into the kitchen, he was arranging a batch of beautiful cookies on a plate, and I went to get the camera. They were delicious, too!
The original recipe for these cookies can be found in "Complete Vegetarian Kitchen" by Lorna Sass. We've altered the recipe a little to suit our personal tastes.

Chocolate chip oatmeal cookies
(about two dozen)
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (stir it up before measuring)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup Sucanot (evaporated cane juice)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 or more tablespoons water

-Combine flour, oatmeal, Sucanot, salt and baking soda in large bowl. Stir in chips.
-Mix oil, vanilla and 2 tablespoons water in glass measuring cup.
-Stir the wet into the dry until flour is absorbed. Batter will be thick but if it's too stiff to work with, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.
-Drop by heaping teaspoons about one inch apart onto two oiled cookie sheets. Flatten and shape with your fingers to about 1/4 inch thick.
-Bake on center shelf of preheated 375˚ oven until lightly browned on the bottom, about 17 minutes.
-Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.
-These cookies freeze very well. They even taste good frozen!

note: I know these delicious cookies are fast and easy to make because my husband made them. I know they're probably foolproof for the same reason. Here's an example of what I mean. A couple of months ago he made me a frosted birthday cake. It looked amazing but there were problems. For one thing, he made two layers but didn't put frosting between them so when the cake was cut into pieces, (sawed into pieces would probably be more accurate) the two layers popped apart like a weird hinged thing held together by an outer edge of rubberized frosting. The cake was basically inedible. Although I ate my piece, my husband and son refused to eat theirs. The cake came to a good end, however. My husband added it to the compost to enrich the soil for next year's garden!

January 11, 2008

Tofu and kale burritos

We had something similar to this dish many years ago in a wonderful restaurant in Santa Fe. They were so yummy that I re-created the recipe when we returned home. It's been so long since I've made them that I can't clearly remember the original taste, but I was thinking about how delicious they were and, inspired by the memory, I made them for dinner tonight. The recipe made enough for two very overstuffed (as in hard to pick up but very satisfying) burritos. I think you can probably make more than two. These are really fast and easy to make even though the recipe looks long, and they taste wonderful. They go perfectly with oven sweet potato fries. (1/18/08 post)

Tofu and kale burritos
Makes two to three large burritos.
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon rice syrup
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
Put the mustard into a glass measuring cup. Add the other ingredients and mix. Add enough water to make about 1/3 cup.

  • 1/2 (or more) large bunch kale, about 6 large leaves
  • 1/4 lb. firm tofu (water packed or vacuum sealed in plastic, not the kind in the box)
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 minced chipote pepper in adobo sauce (Freeze the rest of the can in blobs for other recipes. Once frozen, store the blobs in a plastic bag.)
  • 1 peeled carrot
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 or 2 chopped green onions
  1. Strip the kale from the ribs. (Hold the stem in one hand with the leaf's underside facing up and just slide the thumb and finger of your other hand firmly along the rib, taking the leaf off as you go. You should end up with a bunch of bare ribs for the compost or soup stock.) Put the leaves in a large bowl of water and swish them around to clean. If the water looks dirty, do it again (and again). Shake off the excess water and mound the leaves on a cutting board so you can shred through them with a knife. Move the leaves a bit and slice some more until they are roughly shredded.
  2. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and saute with the garlic in a wok or skillet in a small amount of oil until the tofu starts to brown. Add the chipotle and about a tablespoon of sauce and toss and cook a minute longer. Remove tofu from the wok. 
  3. Add the kale and cover the wok so the kale can steam in the water clinging to it. Turn the heat down a little so it doesn't burn. When the kale is nice and tender but still firm (in other words, don't cook it until it turns to mush - just until you can bite it easily — you want to retain some bulk and mouth appeal) grate the carrot directly into the wok and toss in the corn. Cover for a minute to heat the corn and the carrot. The carrot can stay crunchy. Add the tofu, the onion and the rest of the sauce, and flip it all together.
note: I love raw onion but it tends to upset my stomach so I add the green onion to the wok just before the tofu is finished cooking, to take the raw edge off. You can add it just before filling the tortillas if you wish.

Tortillas: I used to use whole wheat tortillas from Whole Foods or from our co-op, but now I use a gluten-free alternative. Warm them on a nonstick griddle flipping the tortilla until it softens. When it's ready, lay it on a plate, put the filling in, fold in one end and roll it up. Enjoy!

Optional add-ins: 
sliced black olives
hot sauce
parsley or cilantro

January 06, 2008

What's for dessert?: baked apples

It was a grey, gloomy, unusually warm day. Since we're still buried under heaps of snow, the warm air in contact with the snow caused a dense fog. This kind of dense, damp, dreary day makes me want an old-fashioned, comforting dessert – like baked apples. Baked apples are so ordinary that no one ever thinks of making them, or serving them to company, but that's also what makes them special. They are so cheerful that when people see them they are always surprised and delighted. And they are as easy to make as a dessert can be.
Use baking apples. (Cortlands are really good but don't use red delicious.) Core the apples. The easiest way to core apples is with an apple corer. Set the apple on a wooden board and place the corer into the apple at the stem so that it is perpendicular to the Peel the top inch or so of each apple. Put the cored apples in a baking dish, and fill the centers with raisins or other dried fruit. (Chopped apricots are more tangy.) Carefully lift and turn each apple upside down and stuff more fruit into the hole. When all the apples are stuffed and in the dish, put about 1/2 inch of water into the dish and place into a pre-heated 400˚ oven.
Bake about 30 to 45 minutes. Different types of apples have different baking times so after 30 minutes, check each five minutes or so until they are soft but still holding their shape. Baste the apples with the liquid a few times during baking if you remember. If not, baste when you take them out. At this point you can sprinkle with a little cinnamon and serve the apples warm or chilled.
I threw a handful of cranberries into the dish for the last ten minutes of baking time (I baked my apples for 45 minutes) intending to use the berries for decoration on the serving plate. At the last minute, I decided to make a sauce instead.
I put about 1/4 cup of brown rice syrup into a small saucepan and warmed it up. To this I added the liquid and cranberries that were in the baking dish. I dissolved about a teaspoon of arrowroot in a tablespoon of water and added it to the bubbling syrup, cooking until clear and slightly thickened. I removed the pot from the heat, stirred in a teaspoon of vanilla and poured the sauce over the apples. Beautiful and yummy.

January 04, 2008

Fresh seasonal fruit: pears

A friend in Florida sent us a box of organic apples and pears for the holidays. The pears are in a bowl, ripening, and I've been imagining pear desserts like poached pears with cranberries and caramel, pear upside-down cake and pear crisp. We'll see. They may all be eaten fresh!