Sunday, December 30, 2012

Green Chile Enchiladas

You know I don't normally care about making things easy, unless of course we're talking about all of the screw-top wines out of Britain, in which case--I'm sorry the puns are too easy here--let's toast to another year behind us.

Tonight I made these awesome green chile enchiladas with queso fresco and scallions. Seriously, I don't even need to give you the recipe; that's it. But, I will anyway.

Serves 4

1  package queso fresco
1 package corn tortillas
28 ounces chile verde enchilada sauce
3 green onions, roughly chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Ladle about 1 cup of enchilada sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish.

Crumble the queso fresco and combine with the green onions and cilantro. Fill each tortilla with the cheese mixture and snuggle them down into the casserole dish, with the seam side down.

Top with the remaining sauce and a few tablespoons of queso fresco. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. Enjoy.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cauliflower Fritters with Port Reduction

Have you ever cooked with Port? I used it in an an award-winning recipe I submitted to Bare Chicken recently for Pan Seared Chicken Thighs with Port, Mushrooms and Cream. It was one of the best things I've ever made. The judges concurred. 

I had about a third of a bottle of Ruby Port left over after I cooked and tested the chicken recipe a few times (read: gorged myself). So when I read Deb Perelman's recent recipe for Cauliflower-Feta Fritters with Pomegranate, I knew what to do. First, make a port wine reduction. Second, order a copy of her cookbook, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.  

With both satisfactorily accomplished, Rich and I sat down to dinner last night with candles lit and the kids in bed and indulged in absolute food heaven. In all my years of vegetarian cooking, this is most definitely in my top ten recipes. It's right up there with my Creamy Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas, one of the favorites from my own cookbook, Modern Family Table

I did not follow the original recipe exactly. Do I ever? So here's my take on Smitten Kitchen's version.  

serves two 

1 head cauliflower
6-8 ounces Greek feta
2 shallots, minced
zest of one lemon 
sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 egg, whisked
1/2 cup flour (we used a gluten-free flour) 
1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup ruby port

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon cumin
sea salt to taste

pomegranate arils to serve
baby greens to serve 

Blanche the cauliflower in salted water until it is fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and then shock in cold water. Pat dry and set aside. 

Meanwhile, pulse the feta, shallots and lemon zest in your food processor a few times. Add them to the cauliflower and mash with a potato masher or a wooden spoon. Season to taste with sea salt and several grinds of black pepper. Add the flour, baking powder, stirring to combing. Finally, incorporate the egg to bring everything together. It should have a pasty consistency, somewhere in between cookie dough and cake batter. 

In a clean small pot, cook the port over low heat just below simmering. Swirl the pan often until it thickens and coats a spoon. This will take about 10 minutes. Set aside until ready to serve. You can certainly do this ahead of time if you wish. 

In a small container, whisk together the plain yogurt and cumin. Season to taste with sea salt. Cover and set aside until you're ready to serve. Again, you can certainly do this ahead of time. 

Heat about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat until it's good and hot. Form small patties--at the most 1/4 cup volume--with your hands and place them in the pan for about 2-3 minutes on each side. The process reminded me of making pancakes far more than making fish cakes insofar as the fritter mixture is more viscous.

Set the fritters on a pan in your oven to stay warm if you need to fry them up in batches. 

To serve, drizzle each plate with the port reduction and a dollop of cumin-scented yogurt. Stack the fritters and top with baby greens and pomegranate arils. 

P.S. Normally, I do all of my own food photography, but last night, my husband had just come from a shoot and offered to do these for me. As usual, his work floors me. Check out his other work here.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chilaquiles Verdes

I am embarrassed to admit how many times I have ordered the Chilaquiles Verdes at Gallo Blanco around the corner from where I live. Stephen, a server there, knows the truth. Lots. Each time I order it, I casually ask the servers about its preparation. "Sooo, what kinds of peppers do you use in the salsa verde?" I kept asking until I had a good approximation of how they prepared it. After several weeks, I had built it up so much in my mind, I was afraid I would be disappointed. But no. It is absolutely amazing! I know you'll love it.

serves four

12 tostadas*
16 ounces queso fresco
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
2 scallions, roughly chopped
8 fresh eggs
8 ounces roasted chicken or turkey, roughly chopped (optional)

Salsa Verde
1 Poblano pepper
2 Anaheim peppers
1 Jalapeno pepper
1 tablespoon oil
3 cloves garlic
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
sea salt

*You can either buy tostadas in the Mexican foods section of your grocery store or make your own by frying fresh corn tortillas in about 1 inch of 375 degree oil for about 2 minutes, then draining on a cooling rack. 

Halve the peppers and remove the ribs and seeds. Coat the skin side with oil using a paper towel and place them on a pan under your broiler until they are charred and blistered. Remove to a separate container and cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. Allow to steam for at least ten minutes.

When cool enough to handle, remove the skins and discard. Place the peppers and all of the remaining salsa ingredients into a blender and pulse until somewhat smooth. Season to taste with sea salt.

Combine the queso fresco with the cilantro and scallions.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place four tostadas on a large cookie sheet. Top each with a spoon full of salsa verde and spread it to the edges. Top with about 2 ounces of queso fresco. Top with another tostada, salsa and queso fresco. Reserve the third tostada. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until heated through and the cheese softens.

While they're baking, fry the eggs to your liking. I prefer over easy because that tends to yield a nice runny yolk without under cooking the whites. And a runny yolk is key to this dish. I'm supposed to tell you that eating raw or under cooked eggs is dangerous, so I will. But, what can I say, I like to live dangerously.

Remove each stack to a plate and top with the remaining tostada, a generous scoop of salsa verde and two fried eggs. Enjoy immediately.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Gelato

Vegan Month of Food came to a close about two weeks ago, and I've been biting my nails--which is distinctively not vegan--about coming out of the omnivore closet. I am not a vegan. I tried the lifestyle for several weeks, but the truth is, I feel better when I eat a more varied, whole-foods diet. So, there. I said it.

Time to get to the food, which is why we're all here right? I made this pumpkin pie gelato a few days ago and have been in autumnal heaven ever since. It is everything wonderful about fall and Thanksgiving blended into a creamy, frozen custard. If you have the time and the inclination for culinary cuteness, consider hollowing out mini pumpkins to serve.

yields about 2 pints 

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream

5 egg yolks
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup pumpkin, cooked and pureed
1/2 teaspoon of each allspice, cinnamon, ginger
1/2 clove nutmeg, freshly grated

Heat the milk and cream over medium-low heat in a heavy saucepan until it almost simmers. Remove from heat.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until they're pale and creamy. Of course, it won't be as pale as if you're using white sugar, but it will lighten slightly.

Temper the egg mixture by pouring about half a cup of the hot milk mixture in a thin, steady stream into the bowl, whisking as you do. Finish incorporating both the egg and milk mixtures and transfer back to the heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat until the custard thickens somewhat and can coat the back of a spoon.

Fold in the pumpkin and spices and transfer to a bowl to cool in your refrigerator. When chilled, transfer to your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Purslane Salad with Lemon and Parsley Vinaigrette

On Saturday, we wandered to the downtown Phoenix farmer's market where Brad sampled nearly everything, homemade granola, scones, cookies, even dog treats if I would have let him. We walked past several produce stands, many run by large, established farms. But we were hoping to support an immigrant or refugee farming cooperative. That's when we met Jawn from Golo Family Organic Farms.

Her beauty spilled out like grace all over us as she explained how she ended up in Phoenix as a farmer. 
"I lived in a refugee camp in West Africa for 15 years, until America came and rescued me," she said. "God rescued me."

In the camp, she taught others to support themselves through batik and screen printing using classic African designs. She farmed. And, she waited. Eventually, the United States stepped in. "Nothing happens without America," Jawn says. "Other countries would wait until the US walked into a refugee camp and said, 'Yes, we'll take you, and you, and you'."

She sees farming as her way of giving back. 

I looked through her produce. Although it was still early morning as far as I was concerned, most of her supply had already been purchased.

"What's this?" I asked, holding up what looked like a bunch of weeds. 

Purslane, or Mexican spinach, she informed me. I tasted it. It had a soft, lemony tang, with the texture you would imagine of biting into a succulent. 

I came home and Googled purslane recipes. Most were for salads, though some suggested stir frying it into eggs. However, cooking had the possibility of bringing out a dreaded okra-like slime, so I opted for a raw preparation. If you can get your hands on this ubiquitous weed, I highly recommend it. It's much more interesting than lettuce, with a satisfying crunch and a delicious flavor.  

serves four

1 bunch purslane, rinsed and roughly chopped (rough stems removed)
1 avocado, diced
1 plum tomato, diced

1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon parsley, minced
generous pinch sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toss the vegetables together in a large salad bowl. Whisk together the vinaigrette and season to taste with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Pour over the salad. You can wait to serve this for up to half an hour if you wish; it doesn't wilt as quickly as does lettuce or spinach.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cilantro, Lime and Quinoa Salad

Since I learned that cilantro is the most widely used herb in the world, about ten years ago, I have wanted to write a cookbook devoted to it. I'm sure it has nothing to do with my unabashed addiction to lime, cilantro's constant companion.

If I were to write such a book, this salad would kick it off. It's bursting with flavor and perfect as a side dish or a hearty, vegan entree. Plus -- and this is a feat of nature -- my kids love it, especially the baby. Thank you to my friend Christi who inspired this recipe.

serves four

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 1/4 cup vegetable broth

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 avocados, diced
3 scallions, sliced on a bias
1 15-ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained

2 limes, zested and juiced
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon Serrano pepper, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch granulated sugar

Bring the quinoa and vegetable broth to a simmer in a medium sauce pan, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until done.

Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes, cilantro, avocados and scallions.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small jar. Take a small portion of the cilantro and chop very finely and add to the dressing.

When the quinoa is cooked, fluff with a fork and add half of the dressing. Add the remaining ingredients and dressing to the pan and stir to combine. You really don't want to overwork this or it will become all mashed together, especially the avocado.

Allow the salad to sit in the refrigerator for at least half an hour, longer if you desire a cold salad.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Raw, Vegan Spiced Cookie & Maple Ice Cream Sandwiches

Every weekday morning, when we walk onto the campus of Brad’s school, the kind, comforting voice of Jack Johnson greets us over the loud speaker while children scatter like dozens of mice to their classrooms. 
Fall is here, hear the yell
Back to school, ring the bell
Brand new shoes, walking blues
Climb the fence, books and pens
I can tell that we are going to be friends
Yes I can tell that we are going to be friends

The weather in Arizona finally suggests that fall is in fact here. School has been in session for two months now, and Brad can write words and sentences in both English and Spanish. I can hardly believe it. He doesn't kiss me goodbye. He doesn't even look back as he bounds in to his class each day.
I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.

When he comes home each day, we always have some sort of treat. Lately it’s been popsicles, but now that fall is here, I’m transitioning to an in between snack: spiced cookie and maple ice cream sandwiches. They came about by a random whisper of inspiration, but are surprisingly wonderful.

Maple Ice Cream
yields 12 ounces 

1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight in the refrigerator and rinsed thoroughly
8 ounces agave and maple syrup blend (I found this at Trader Joes, but you could certainly make your own by combining the syrups yourself)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch sea salt
Blend all of the ingredients thoroughly in a high speed blender, then pour into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions until frozen.

Spiced Cookies
1 cup walnuts
¾ cup dates
Generous pinch sea salt
Pinch of each cinnamon, ginger, allspice

Combine thoroughly in a food processor until you can press into a ball with your hands.

To assemble the ice cream sandwiches, take a tablespoon of cookie mixture and form into a flattened cookie shape. Top with the same amount of ice cream, then cookie layer. (You will have ice cream left over. I recommend serving with my Raw Vegan Apple Tart.

Wrap individually in plastic wrap, or place in a sealed container. Freeze until solid, at least two hours. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tempeh Tacos

Rarely do I promise that something tastes just like meat. Usually, plant foods taste deliciously like themselves. Cilantro tastes like cilantro. Fresh guacamole tastes like guacamole. And so on. And that's a good thing. 

However, sometimes you want a meal that feels a little more substantive. In these tacos, crumbled tempeh seasoned with cumin, smoked paprika and sauteed onions resembles ground beef, particularly because it's snuggled under all of the usual taco fixings: shredded lettuce, fresh guacamole, cilantro and roasted tomato salsa. 

serves four

Fresh Guacamole
2 fresh, ripe avocados, pitted and diced
1 lime, juiced
1 shallot, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh serrano pepper, minced
Mash all of the ingredients until well combined. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Quick Roasted Tomato Salsa
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro
1 shallot, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 lime, juiced
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
pinch sea salt
Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until everything is well combined, but not completely pureed.

Tempeh Taco Filling
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup yellow onions, minced
1 package tempeh, crumbled
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onion until fragrant and golden. Add the tempeh and brown well. Add the cumin, paprika and ketchup and toss to coat. Remove from heat.

To serve
1 package corn tortillas
2 cups shredded lettuce
small handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

I really don't have to tell you how to assemble tacos. So I won't. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Raw Vegan Apple Tart

It doesn't get anymore autumnal than this, except perhaps walking through an orchard and eating rotting apples off the ground. But, um, gross, who wants to do that? Yeah, me neither. In celebration of October, I created this raw, vegan apple tart recipe. 

It's not unlike other raw, vegan apple dishes, but I am a sucker for contrasting flavors and textures, so my crust is a little more dry and salty than others I've seen. 

Happy fall, friends! 

yields one 10" tart

1 cup walnuts
3/4 cup dates
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3-4 organic apples (I enjoy Pink Lady and Gala)
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon cinnamon

To make the crust, pulse the walnuts and sea salt in a food processor until the nuts are finely chopped. Add the dates and pulse until thoroughly combined. Dump the mixture into your tart pan and spread evenly along the bottom and up the sides. Use a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper to press the mixture until firm. 

Slice the apples thinly and toss with the agave and maple syrup -- I used Trader Joes' Agave and Maple Syrup blend -- then the cinnamon.

Arrange artfully in the tart pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

P.S. I won't tell anyone if you want to eat it for breakfast! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sea Salt & Dark Chocolate Vegan Truffles

I love sea salt. I don't care about the plethora of scientists who argue that salt causes hypertension. It doesn't. (Unless by that they mean salt accompanied by 3,000 calories of takeout consumed every day until you tip the scales at 400 pounds, in which case, fine, it does.) 

But if you're like me and really enjoy the way salt brings out or contrasts the flavor of some of your favorite foods you will love, love, love these truffles. Seriously, they're simple and delicious and perfect as a dessert at your next dinner party or, well -- who am I kidding -- they're perfect all the time.

yields 36 truffles

1 cup dark chocolate (either chips or a good-quality chocolate bar 70% or more cacao) 
1/4 cup brewed coffee 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons vegan butter spread (I use Earth Balance Soy Free) 
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Melt the chocolate in a heavy sauce pan over low heat along with the coffee and vanilla. In my mind, the double boiler is just a huge waste of time making people think that cooking is more complicated than it is. Just make sure you remove the pan from the heat when the chocolate is almost melted, stir regularly with a spatula and keep the heat low. 

Whisk in the vegan butter one tablespoon at a time until smooth. 

Refrigerate for one hour. If you keep it in for longer, the mixture will thicken so much that forming the truffles will be difficult and it will need to warm at room temperature slightly before making them. 

Sprinkle the chocolate with about 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Form each truffle into a small ball then swirl in the cocoa powder. Set in a muffin paper or wherever you wish to keep them. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for a month. 

*I am a cook, not a doctor. So seek qualified medical advice before making dietary changes and definitely don't go against the recommendation of your doctor. Duh. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Falafel With Hummus & Grape Tomato Taboule

I always know I have stumbled upon a good recipe when it makes my menu week after week. The forthcoming is a dish my friend Elizabeth brought me after I gave birth to Cole. It's one of those recipes you can make ahead of time -- as is the custom with baby meals -- and then cook when you're ready to serve.

Don't worry too much about the dried chickpeas. They sound like a hassle, but really, they take about as much time to prepare as opening a can.

serves four

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas
1/2 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1/4 bunch cilantro
2 sprigs fresh mint, leaves only
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
olive oil, for frying

1 recipe tomato taboule
prepared hummus

Soak the chickpeas in a generous amount of cold water at least six hours, or as long as overnight in the refrigerator. Rinse and drain when ready to assemble.

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you can reach in -- no, not with the motor running, silly -- and form a ball with your hands.

Set the mixture aside in the refrigerator until you're ready to cook, at least half an hour.

Meanwhile, assemble the tomato taboule. It's really more of a tomato and parsley garnish -- especially because I leave out couscous when I'm cooking for myself -- but who cares? The taste is spot on. Adjust the ratios as you see fit. This is really so not like me to post such a vague recipe, but I suspect you behave in your kitchen as I do in mine, especially at lunch time; impeccable flavors with minimal fuss = win.

To cook the falafel, heat about 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick wide skillet over medium heat. Form the falafel into patties and sear on each side for about 3 minutes, or until golden brown. You may wish to do this in batches. Remove to a separate plate.

Serve the falafel with hummus and tomato taboule.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lemony Mint & Artichoke Pasta

Tonight Rich is shooting Phoenix Fashion Week in Scottsdale, so I'm dining alone. Table for one? I still do not understand how someone could opt for yogurt for dinner when they're eating alone. Where's the fun in that? I used to eat the same thing every time Rich worked in the evenings: pan-seared New York steak with thyme and Cabernet reduction, over arugula with Gorgonzola and roasted red peppers. Yum.

However, these days I'm growing more and more uncomfortable eating factory-farmed animal products. Plus it's Vegan Month of Food, so for now, I'm eating vegan. And few vegan dishes taste as good with as few ingredients as my lemony mint and and artichoke pasta. It's almost as simple as eating yogurt out of the cup, but so, so much better. Enjoy!

serves one

4 ounces pasta, cooked al dente in salted water (I used TJ's gluten-free corn pasta)
1, 15-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and quartered
4 leaves fresh mint, minced
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Toss all of the ingredients together and serve immediately. I told you it was easy!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Big Bird-Free Banh Mi

We like Big Bird too, Governor Romney. That’s why we don’t eat chickens. Granted, traditional banh mi is made with pork, but we don’t eat the Oinker Sisters either.

Ever since I fell in lust with banh mi during the Great Food Truck Road Race on The Food Network, I’ve wanted to create a vegetarian and gluten-free version that stacked up against the original. Ultimately, the most important elements of the classic Vietnamese sandwich are pickled daikon and carrot, Sriracha mayonnaise and cilantro. So, a vegan -- and most importantly, Sesame-Street -friendly -- version is totally within reach.

serves four

1 daikon radish, about 4”, julienned  
2 carrots, peeled, julienned
Sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon Sriracha
¼ cup vegan mayonnaise

1 package tempeh, sliced into four equal pieces
Sesame oil
1 tablespoon gluten free soy sauce
1 lime, juiced

½ bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
½ cucumber, peeled, thinly sliced

4 French rolls (gluten-free if you wish)

Make the pickled daikon and carrots by sprinkling them with a generous amount of sea salt. Allow them to rest for a few minutes, then wring to release their juice and rinse in fresh, cool water. Wring again. Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar and submerge the carrot and daikon in the liquid. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Seriously though, don’t do this days in advance or you’ll get stinky feet pickles and never want to eat them again!)

Whisk together the vegan mayo with the Sriracha and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown the tempeh on both sides, then turn off the heat and add the soy sauce and lime juice.

Toast the French rolls.

To serve, schmear the rolls with the Sriracha mayonnaise, top with seared tempeh, cucumber, pickled daikon and carrots and cilantro.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Fried Green Tomatoes with Barbecued Tempeh

I've come to the conclusion that you can put any good sauce in a chef squirt bottle and drizzle it across your plate to elevate even the humblest vegetable to haute cuisine. And does it get any more comfortingly humble than fried green tomatoes and barbecue sauce? I don't think so.

If the presentation weren't enough, the textures and flavors of this dish are amazing. The tangy, crunchy, cole slaw perfectly offsets the creamy heat of the tempeh and the juicy sweetness of the fried green tomatoes. Oh, and of course, it's vegan.

serves two

Cole Slaw
inspired by a recipe in Tyler's Ultimate 
1 Granny Smith apple, julienned
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/4 red onion, sliced in rings
1 cup red cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lemon, juiced

Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over the prepared fruit and vegetables no more than half an hour before serving.

Fried Green Tomatoes
1 large green heirloom tomato
1/4 cup gluten-free flour blend
1 flax egg
1/4 cup cornmeal
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet.

Core then slice the tomato into four equal pieces. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Dredge in the flour, then the flax egg, then the cornmeal. Place each slice in the hot oil. Cover the pan with a frying screen if you have one. Cook on each side for about two minutes, or until a lovely brown crust forms. Remove to a paper towel.

Barbecued Tempeh
1 package tempeh
1/2 cup prepared barbecue sauce
olive oil

Slice the tempeh as you wish. I like to cut it in half horizontally, then into triangles for a total of four thin pieces. Heat the oil in a separate non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Sear the tofu on each side for about two to three minutes, or until a crust forms. Add the barbecue sauce to the pan and allow it to cook briefly on very low heat or the residual heat from an electric stove top. Do not allow it to burn.

To serve, drizzle barbecue sauce across the plate then stack the tempeh and fried green tomatoes. Top with cole slaw and serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

Last night I attended my first parent-teacher conference. As I left the school, I chatted with a couple other women, we'll call them Susan and Betty. They asked whether it was difficult returning to Arizona after living in Europe. I said it was a bit of a culture shock, especially during an election year. 

Then, we shared a moment, an ineffable almost-glance, a sense of understanding. 

"I think we may see things similarly," Betty said. 

None of us articulated anything further. None of us admitted the deep, dark secret we conceal at church potlucks and school fundraisers. We are a secret society. We are closet liberals. In a red state. I drove home feeling like I might not be so alone after all. 

So what does that have to do with vegan chocolate cupcakes? Good question. This week I stumbled upon the blog and laughed out loud when I read how people reacted when the author went vegan for 30 days, "The majority of the world still regards veganism as some vaguely menacing fringe thing akin to Scientology or Communism." 

But I guess all liberals are communists, aren't they? So it just makes sense to be vegan, for consistency's sake. 

makes 12 cupcakes
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour (starch)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon guar gum
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup hot water
1 batch vegan chocolate, coconut frosting 
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. 
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, including the brown sugar. Stir in the wet ingredients until thoroughly integrated. 
Pour about 1/3 cup of the batter into each muffin tin. 
Bake for about 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through cooking. Cool for 30 minutes before frosting.

Vegan Chocolate, Coconut Frosting 
inspired by Chocolate Frosting Shots! at Chocolate Covered Katie
1 can coconut milk
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch sea salt

Allow the opened can of coconut milk to separate in the refrigerator for several hours. Spoon the thick top layer -- about half of the total can -- into a separate dish. Whisk in the remaining ingredients into the thickened coconut cream until fully incorporated. Pipe onto your cupcakes using a pastry bag or just dollop the frosting on with a spoon.

I don't normally post pictures of my kids on the blog, but I couldn't resist. Cole loved these cupcakes. Commi. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Cauliflower & Sweet Potato Curry

I'm kicking off Vegan Month of Food, or VeganMoFo, with this gorgeous and simple fall dish. I love the event of eating -- the ceremony, the conversation, the wine -- and I look forward to a candlelit dinner with my husband all day. Sometimes vegan food can look like just a pile of this on top of a pile of that. But this month, I'm celebrating fancy pants vegan cuisine, the kind of food that is not only good for you and good for the planet, but looks stunning and makes your mouth water all day long. So, check in with me and see what's in store all month!  

serves four

olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 head cauliflower, broken into small chunks
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed 
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 can coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onion until fragrant and golden. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add all of the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. 

Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender. Correct the seasonings. 

Serve with steamed jasmine brown rice. See, I told you it was simple! Here's how it looks deconstructed, or how it will look if you're not trying to take gorgeous pictures for your blog. Still looks pretty good, right?

Friday, September 28, 2012

French Bread, Oh Sweet, Gluten-Free, Vegan French Bread

When I said goodbye to gluten about two years ago, I missed French bread more than anything. I tried some disappointing variations made with egg whites and miscellaneous flours, but they had all of the sex appeal of a sponge. Plus, I really hate the idea that I have to apologize for a gluten-free food when entertaining guests.

Last week, my best friend Marcella gave me the book Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts for my birthday. When I found her recipe for French-Italian bread and discovered that it's completely vegan, I nearly wet myself. Who ever heard of a gluten-free vegan bread recipe?

Last Sunday evening, we enjoyed the first fruits of the cookbook. A-MA-ZING! A tender, chewy interior ensconced in a perfectly crispy crust made this the best French bread I have ever made. Period. I suppose French bread baked in a professional, artisan bakery would surpass this, but for home baking, it was as good as it gets.

As far as the flours are concerned, I use Arrowhead Mills for the millet flour and Bob's Red Mill for the other flours, starches and guar gum. Also, the original recipe calls for xanthan gum, but it's so expensive, I use guar gum to great effect.

Viva la resistance!

makes one loaf

2/3 cup millet flour
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup potato starch
1/3 cup tapioca flour (starch)
1 1/4 teaspoons guar gum
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 packet active dry yeast (not quick-rise)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup water, heated to 110 degrees Fahrenheit

Grease a long French bread loaf pan -- about 2 1/2 inches wide and 14 inches long -- with olive oil and dust lightly with millet flour.

Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Quickly dump in the water and oil and mix with an electric mixer until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Beat for three minutes on high speed.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Cover the pan gently with a dry towel and set in a warm place to rise for 40-50 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while the bread is rising. Lightly oil the top of the dough before placing it onto the center rack of the oven and baking for about 50 minutes. When it is done, it will have an internal temperature of at least 205 degrees and sound hollow when tapped. Bake for another 10 minutes if it is underdone.

Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Kid Food

I really hate the term kid food. It implies that everything other than chicken fingers and fruit gummies is too advanced, too flavorful, too grown up for children's consumption; we have to dumb it down, refine it, pump it full of high-fructose corn syrup then stuff it into cartoon-character-clad packaging. Why can't we just serve kids real food? Like the kind that grows up from the ground or on a pasture or in the ocean? 

Unfortunately, my oldest son does not find my ideology poetic or appealing. 

"Ewww, this is spicy!" he whined the other day. 
"No, it's not," I replied. "It just has flavor."
"Yeah, but I hate flavor!" 

We have fought so many dinnertime wars. You know the drill. If you eat one more bite you can have dessert. But this is what you asked for! You're not leaving this table until you finish that plate... And, the other day, I reached a new low: Don't you know there are starving children in Africa? 


A few days ago, I pulled out a piece of construction paper and slapped a sticker on it and so began the Brad's New Foods Chart. Every time he not only tastes but eats a small portion of a new food, he gets a sticker. When he fills up the chart, he gets a prize.

So far, he has enjoyed -- yes, enjoyed -- quinoa, multi-grain tortillas and scrambled eggs. I haven't served pb&j in three days. Win. Since then, I haven't heard him even once utter his typical complaint when staring down something he doesn't want to eat: "I like good food, okay? And good food is in Paris."

So, how do you get your kids to eat healthy foods? 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Simple Lentil, Mint and Nectarine Salad

I'm now working full time as a freelance writer on health, fitness and nutrition. Go figure, I'm blogging less now than ever. Nevertheless, the job is ideal and allows me to both dust off my ambitions and help my oldest with his homework and play with my youngest between his naps. I am blessed.

In between marathon writing sessions in my home office evaluating the benefits of yoga versus aerobic exercise or the latest research on this or that nutrition advice, I enjoy frequent trips to the kitchen for a fresh cup of coffee or a quick lunch. 

This is the easiest, most delectable entree salad I've ever had. I wish I could say it came to be of much contemplation and trial. But I have no time for either. It was just one of those meals that came dancing out of my refrigerator from the ingredients on hand. I suggest it for lunch or a side dish for dinner, especially a late-summer picnic dinner. 

serves 2 entrees (or 4 side portions)

2 cups cooked, cooled lentils
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
2 ripe nectarines, diced
1/2 cucumber, peeled and diced
juice of 1 lime
sea salt
ground black pepper 

Toss the first five ingredients together then season to taste with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Vegan Apple Cinnamon Loaf

School started a few weeks ago, and I keep trying to convince myself that summer weather is slowly fading into fall. It's my favorite season. The desert doesn't share my enthusiasm, so I'll have to wait another two months for the triple-digit days to disappear. Nevertheless, the calendar tells me to bake.

I've made this vegan sweet bread a dozen times, and it seems to get better every time. I should tell you I adapted it from Erin McKenna's Babycakes, but I've altered the recipe so much it's not much like the original. 

As far as the flour blend, I use a variety milled in the UK. The texture is similar to cake flour or, as strange as it may sound, powdered sugar. I suggest a blend of white rice flour, fava flour, potato starch, and arrowroot. It's not as technical as you might think; each flour yields a slightly different texture. 

1 3/4 cup gluten-free flour blend 
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon sea salt, fine
2 tablespoons cinnamon, separated
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup applesauce
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup hot water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Roasted Apples
2 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and diced 
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon sugar

Toss the apples in the cinnamon, lemon juice and sugar. Roast for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour blend, sugar, baking powder, soda, xanthan cum, sea salt and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. In a large measuring cup, combine the oil, applesauce, vanilla and hot water. Stir it into the batter until combined, then fold in the roasted apples.

Turn the oven down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Remove about 1/2 cup of the batter and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and an additional 1 tablespoon of water.

Coat a standard loaf pan with coconut oil. Pour the batter into the pan. Drizzle the cinnamon batter and swirl it in with a spoon. Sprinkle with one teaspoon granulated sugar.

Bake for 45-50 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Vegan Corn Chowder

I enjoyed this corn chowder recipe with fresh corn on the cob from the restaurant St. Francis on Camelback in Central Phoenix. It was one of the best vegetarian gluten-free soups I had ever had, so I casually asked the server how it was prepared. Amazingly enough he brought me the recipe: a pound of butter, several leeks, fresh corn, and heavy cream blended into heavenly submission. 

Fast forward two years and I'm tending toward more vegan cooking. Last week I tried a vegan corn chowder recipe with fresh corn on the cob from the book Vegan with a Vengeance--a brilliant read--but I felt that it masked the flavor of the fresh corn. And summertime is all about fresh corn. So I hunted down the recipe from St. Francis and decided to veganize it. 

So smooth and delicious! Although we made it for dinner, I think it would be even better as an easy vegan lunch. You could definitely make it a day ahead and reheat it too. The most important thing is to find the freshest corn you can get your hands on. The sugars in sweet corn convert to starch as the vegetable ages, so plan to make the soup the same day you pick it/buy it. 

serves four

1 medium leek, washed thoroughly, diced 
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

4 ears fresh, sweet corn on the cob, kernels removed
4 sprigs fresh thyme
24 ounces good-quality vegetable broth

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar 
1 pint So Delicious Coconut Creamer (or another vegan creamer)

2 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a medium sauce pan, sweat the leek and onion with olive oil and sea salt over low heat. The salt helps the vegetables release their liquids. Keep the heat low so they do not develop any color. Cook for about 15 minutes, until soft and pulpy. 

Add the thyme, vegetable broth, corn cobs, and all but 1/2 cup of the corn kernels. Cook for another 15-20 minutes. 

Stir in the white wine vinegar then add the non dairy creamer. Remove the corn cobs and thyme. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. (This can be done cautiously with a regular blender too, making sure to allow the steam to escape so that the lid does not burst from the top.) 

Pour into wide soup bowls and garnish with scallions, the reserved corn kernels, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What is Real Food?

While riding the tube through London last month, I mentioned to my father-in-law that my favorite restaurant in Arizona is True Food Kitchen.

“What makes it so special?” he asked

I paused, playing a game of mental chess in my head. They serve food, I thought. But, doesn’t every restaurant? No, like real food. As opposed to fake food? Well, yes.

We emerged from the Underground around Saint Paul’s Cathedral and popped in at a little cafe called EAT. With the slogan, The Real Food Restaurant, perhaps EAT could articulate my perspective better. We ordered sandwiches, wraps, and salads. As everyone turned over the packages to read a short list of ingredients, I smiled. Nothing we couldn’t pronounce. Nothing you couldn’t pick up at the local farmer’s market. Just food, the definition of which still remained amorphous. 

With modifiers such as honest, real, whole, and true multiplying faster than yogurt cultures, a consuming public should square up with what exactly we’re eating if not food. And what should we expect from a restaurant, market, or product claiming to provide us real food?
In his book, In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan recounts the first time he heard the advice to “just eat food.” He was baffled. “Of course you should eat food--what else is there to eat?”
Quite a bit, it turns out.

“Today there are thousands of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket,” Pollan writes, “novel products of food science.” Designed to resemble food, these products seduce us with their health claims and deceive our senses into eating more of them while a profiteering industry churns out new ones each year.

So what is real food? The grassroots movement Real FoodChallenge provides a thorough albeit cumbersome definition:
Real Food is food which truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities, and the earth.  It is a food system--from seed to plate--that fundamentally respects human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability.

Okay, so what does that mean? We need something a little more tangible. Something we can tuck into our reusable shopping bag, recycled from a vegetable-ink-dyed, burlap sack of fair-trade, green, Guatemalan coffee beans.
Pollan provides a set of guidelines in In Defense of Food that moves us past the theoretical and into the practical:  
·         Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

·         Avoid food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than five in number, or that include high-fructose corn syrup.

·         Avoid food products that make health claims.

·         Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.

·         Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.
So let’s put Pollan’s real food rules to the test with a random sample from the local super market. 

It should come as no surprise that a box of toaster pastries with a shelf life extending well into the next congressional term is not food. Assume for a moment that your great grandmother would recognize the frosted brown sugar cinnamon treats as sustenance. That feat aside... (continue reading)

Originally published on Under the Tuscan Gun, the website of the Cooking Channel's show Extra Virgin.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa with Orange Basil Vinaigrette and Pepitas

With only pennies remaining in our savings account, I decided to revisit The Veganomics Project, a venture I began while living in Europe to save money on groceries by eating a plant-based diet. The exchange rate crippled my plan, which made its chief ambition to spend only $50 a week to feed our family of four. But as we're back in the United States, I'm back in business.

This week, I'm trying all new recipes. It makes cooking and eating vegan so much more fun. Last night we kicked off the week with a recipe borrowed--and modified beyond recognition--from one of my favorite local restaurants, Windsor. Its Mixed Grain Salad combines black quinoa, kamut, and pearled barley with roasted vegetables, baby beets, currants, and fresh salad greens all tossed in an orange basil vinaigrette, topped with goat cheese and served with warm pita bread. It's a masterpiece.

My adaptation is gluten-free, vegan, and produces one sink-full fewer dishes than the original. But, it's still a masterpiece. Savory roasted vegetables sit atop a bed of greens and pillowy quinoa, perfectly offset by the delicate crunch of pepitas and sweet currants. It's a perfect summer dish because you can prepare many of the ingredients ahead of time and enjoy the dish cold or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Serves four 

Roasted Vegetables
2 zucchini, julienned
2 carrots, shredded
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup currants (raisins are acceptable)
¼ cup fresh basil chiffonade

Orange Basil Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Zest and juice of one orange
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 Serrano pepper, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 head red lettuce, rinsed, dried and roughly chopped   
¼ cup pepitas 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the roasted vegetables, toss the zucchini, carrots, and grape tomatoes with olive oil in a 9x13 glass pan. Season generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with the currants and fresh basil. Set aside.

While the vegetables are cooking, cook the quinoa in a 1 1/2 cups salted water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients, using as much or as little Serrano pepper as you desire. About 1/4 of the pepper will produce a very mild and agreeable heat. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

To serve, toss the quinoa with half of the orange vinaigrette. Toss the lettuce with the remaining dressing. Plate the lettuce first. Top with quinoa and roasted vegetables. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of pepitas.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Espinacas con Garbanzos

There is no such thing as too much smoked paprika. You either agree with me or you haven't tasted it. Or you're doing it wrong; like my friend Kyle says, "The last time I smoked paprika, I tried to eat some guy's face." 

A far better application for this quintessential Spanish spice is in the vegan classic espinacas con garbanzos.  Translated: spinach and garbanzo beans. It sounds so much more exotic in Spanish, doesn't it? It combines smoked paprika with two other classic elements of the regional cuisine: red wine vinegar and cumin. 

We eat espinacas con garbanzos here almost weekly over a bed of quinoa and with a glass of Rioja or Tempranillo. It's simple, vegan comfort food, so good you won't be hungry for flesh at all. 

serves 2-4 

extra virgin olive oil
2 bunches fresh spinach, thoroughly rinsed and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon red chili flake 
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
2 plum tomatoes, diced 
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 cups cooked quinoa 

Heat a two-count of olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cover the pan with a lid, stirring infrequently until the greens are wilted. 

Add the chickpeas, vinegar, and spices and cook until heated through. Remove from the heat. Toss in the plum tomatoes and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Serve over quinoa. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Watermelon and Serrano Gazpacho

Finally we're settled in the United States again in the sweltering Arizona desert. On our way out of London, we enjoyed one last dinner out at a small French brasserie in Kensington where we both huddled under an awning in sweaters while the rain fell sideways, speckling our table with English summer. Thus, like a huge block of ice, we're thawing slowly, melting into a puddle in the blazing sun.
But we couldn't be happier.

As of Thursday, we have a dining room table and chairs, a couch, and an oven that works. I can't tell you how excited I am to cook and entertain again. So excited, in fact, that we've had dinner guests every night since. Last night, our friends Anna and David joined us. It was the first time all four of our kids played together. It's good to be home. 

Last night we celebrated the summer with grilled salmon and this amazing raw, vegan watermelon and serrano gazpacho, for which I can take absolutely no credit. Tyler Florence is the one chef who I can follow blindly and have every recipe turn out perfectly. He is a genius. I think you'll agree when you taste this cold soup that marries the traditional gazpacho ingredients of cucumber, tomato, and red wine vinegar with the surprising complexity of Serrano chili, dill, and fresh watermelon. 

3 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
3 cups ripe tomatoes, cubed
1/2 Serrano pepper (or more if you like it hot)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons red onion, minced
2 tablespoons dill, minced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely diced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh dill for serving
Puree the watermelon, tomatoes, and chili in a blender until smooth. Add the olive oil and vinegar while the blender is still running.
Add the onion, dill, and cucumber and pulse once or twice, just until evenly distributed. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve garnished with a sprig of dill. Serve immediately or chill before serving.