Thursday, October 15, 2015

Best Vegetarian Restaurants in U.S.

Foursquare put together the list in the link
I've eaten at a few and don't disagree but didn't understand the inclusion of Golden Era in SF.  It is a fine Asian restaurant but nothing special.  Still it is vegan!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Hot Chocolate Fig Sauce with Sea Salt

When I was developing this recipe I was looking for an easy way to make a creamy, vegan chocolate sauce without lots of ingredients.  Once I thought of using a vegan ice cream (I used a vanilla coconut milk based one) as the sauce base the rest of the recipe came together very fast.  I like it with the kiss of sea salt, but feel free to leave out if you'd like.

This sauce is good hot on your ice cream or other dessert, but it's amazing chilled eaten right out of the container or spread on toast or pancakes.  I didn't try this, but I think it would work.  Make sauce and chill until solid.  Dust hands with cocoa. Roll by the teaspoon or tablespoon in hands until rounded, roll in additional cocoa until covered.  Keep chilled until serving. Quick, chocolate-fig truffles!  (You could even get fancy and slice a dried fig almost in half, stuff with a truffle and serve like that.  You know I think I have to whip up another batch!)

Hot Chocolate Fig Sauce with Sea Salt
Makes 1 cup

1/4 cup fig preserves
1/2 cup non-dairy vanilla ice cream
4 oz. vegan semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 tsp. finely ground sea salt

Put fig preserves in pot on low heat. Stir until syrupy. Add ice cream and chocolate. Stir until melted and smooth. Stir in salt.

Chocolate Fig Sundaes: For each serving, drizzle 2-3 Tbs. of warm sauce over 1/2 cup of non-dairy vanilla ice cream. Garnish with sliced fresh figs. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Vegan Paella Almost By Accident

What to take to the food bloggers picnic?
You want to show off, but not be obnoxious about it.
You want something portable and suitable for al fresco eating that shows you have game.
And most important when you are trying to decide on the morning of the picnic when you have done NO advance planning or shopping, you want to cook something you have all the ingredients for in the house.

My solution was a vegan paella.

Every brand of chorizo (even among the soy versions) has a different seasoning, so you may need to adjust the heat and salt in your paella. I used the Trader Joe vegan chorizo in this version.

Feel free to sub out the vegetables and garnish.  Paella is a very individual dish and is suitable for many occasions and virtually unlimited adaptations.  For the best paella, I do believe using a thin, seasoned metal paella pan (paellera) works best.  (Although I've made decent paellas in a stainless steel fry pan.) You also need the right rice.  Use either a Spanish paella rice (such as bomba or Calasparra) or Italian aborio rice.  I usually make mine on the stove and then finish it in the oven for even cooking, but if you have access to an outdoor fire (especially wood) it is wonderful cooked on that.

Here's my basic rules for paella making. I encourage you read through them since I give a lot of tips on how to make paella in the post. The post also features a non vegan recipe but the techniques are the same. I've taken to serving my paellas with a sauce of some kind.  I like the avocado one in that recipe, but I've also made a smoked eggplant one and even used hummus as one.  They really elevate the taste experience by adding a creamy, cool component.  For this paella, I served a simple store-bought hummus for folks to drizzle over their rice.

I don't claim this is a "traditional" paella, I'm not sure I believe in such a dish any more, anyway.  A paella is just a canvas to express flavor and texture to me as long as it still relies on what I consider proper technique.  The one step I usually include that's not in this version -- I normally add chopped tomatoes to my sautéed vegetables.  I didn't here because I didn't have any regular tomatoes in the house due to my aforementioned lack of planning.

A word of encouragement -- the directions are more complicated to write out then do (especially if you review by basic rules and read through the recipe posted there.)  Allow yourself enough time (paella holds beautifully) and enjoy.

Accidental Vegan Paella
Serves 3-4, more as tapas (appetizer)

2 cups vegetable stock
Pinch saffron threads (optional)
2 Tbs. oil
6 oz. crumbled soy chorizo (out of casing)
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbs. minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped  carrots
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/8 tsp. or to taste salt
1/8 tsp. or to taste black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cumin
1 cup paella or Arborio rice
1 cup white wine
About 16 green beans or asparagus spears, partially cooked
About 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
Fresh, chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put stock in pan on stove and heat to simmer and add saffron threads if using.  Keep warm.

Add oil a 10-12" paella pan or oven safe sauté or fry pan. (See note below.)  Heat oil in pan on stove over medium high heat.  Brown chorizo.  Remove from pan with slotted spoon.  Add onion and sauté until softened.  Add garlic, sauté until golden.  Add celery, carrots and red bell pepper.  Sauté until beginning to soften.  Add salt, pepper and cumin adjusting to taste since chorizo is highly seasoned.  Sauté a minute, stir and mix in browned chorizo.  Mix well.  Add rice.  Stir until well coated with oil.  Sauté for a minute, add 1 and 1/2 cups stock and wine.  Mix well, and stir occasionally until stock is simmering and rice has begun to swell. Adjust heat to keep at a simmer.

From this point on, do not mix or stir the rice.  (Stirring makes the dish mushy as well as preventing the formation of a bottom crust of rice.) If you are concerned that it is not cooking evenly, adjust or rotate the pan on the stove over the heating coil or flame.  Place string beans and cherry tomatoes in a decorative pattern on top of paella.  Continue to cook, without stirring, until rice is beginning to soften and if you bite into a grain it is crunchy but not raw tasting.  (Timing will vary widely).  There should be some liquid left in the pan as well.  If the rice seems dry, add stock as needed.  (You will probably need to use the entire 2 cups.) If you use up stock, add warm water as needed. Cover with aluminum foil or pan lid.  Place in oven and bake for  10 minutes. Check to see if rice is almost but not quite cooked through when you bite into a grain.  If the rice is not ready, add liquid if needed, cover and check again in a few minutes. When the rice at that al dente stage, remove from oven and keep covered for 10 minutes or so before serving.  Uncover and garnish with chopped parsley.  If not serving right away, slightly undercook and keep covered until serving or uncover and serve at room temperature, garnishing right before serving.

Note:  You could use a larger paella pan, but timing will vary greatly.  If you are using a 14" pan, you could adjust the recipe to increase ingredients by 50 percent.  If you are not using a paella pan, make sure that any handles on the pan you do use are oven safe.  Heavy cast iron pans, earthenware casseroles and similar pans do not work very well in terms of getting a traditional paella texture.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Not Chicken Soup and Matzofu Balls for Vegan Holiday Dinners (Plus the soup is a great basic veggie broth)

The Jewish High Holidays are a few weeks away, but I’m already thinking of my menu. Since I mostly eat vegan and always have vegetarian or vegan guests, I plan to have some dishes free from animal products for them to enjoy. Usually that means I look to the vegetable-friendly cuisines of the Sephardic and Middle Eastern traditions, but this year I have a hankering to serve some dishes from my own Eastern European heritage.
The Not Chicken Soup works well as a chicken soup alternative or as a vegetable stock to use in other recipes. Serve it on its own or with my Matzofu Balls, an eggless version of the classic Ashkenazi knaidlach (matzah ball). Made from matzah meal and silken tofu, these dumplings have the look and texture of the classic matzah ball. They taste best when served warm. I like to vary the recipe by adding 1/4 cup of fresh minced flat leaf parsley when I add the matzah meal for beautiful green-flecked dumplings.

Not Chicken Soup (aka Vegetable Broth)
Makes about 9 cups of broth

1 medium large onion, unpeeled
3-4 whole cloves garlic, peeled
2 medium carrots, unpeeled
1 large parsnip, unpeeled
1 large russet baking potato, unpeeled
1 large turnip, unpeeled
8 small white or brown mushrooms
2 medium to large stalks of celery, with leaves
2 medium tomatoes, halved
1 bunch fresh parsley
About 10-12 cups water
1/2 plus 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 plus 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. turmeric
2-4 cups diced warm steamed vegetables, optional
Finely chopped dill, optional

Remove outer layer of onion peel if dirty, trim roots and rinse unpeeled onion, cut in quarters and put in a large soup or stock pot. Add garlic cloves. Trim, scrub and rinse carrots, parsnip, potato and turnip. Cut into 1” pieces and add to pot. Wipe down mushrooms, trim off end of stem, cut in half and add to pot. Cut celery into 1” pieces and add to pot with tomatoes and parsley. Add water just to cover (use a little less rather than a little more). Add 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. turmeric, stir and bring to a low boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are very soft and the broth is full tasting (30-45 minutes). If the broth is too strong add water. If broth is too weak, remove cover, return to low boil and let cook until the broth is reduced to desired strength. Strain soup, pressing down on vegetables to extract liquid. Discard solids. Return broth to pot and return to a simmer. Add remaining salt and pepper or to taste.  If desired, serve by adding steamed vegetables to soup bowl, ladling in soup and sprinkling with dill.
Matzofu Balls
Makes 16
1-12 oz. box of soft silken tofu (shelf-stable aseptic package)
2 Tbs. vegetable oil 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne (ground red pepper)
1 cup matzah meal
1/2 cup unflavored seltzer
Whip or beat tofu until smooth in large bowl. Mix in oil, salt, turmeric, pepper , cayenne and matzah meal. Stir well. Add seltzer. Stir gently until just combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Put a large pot of water on the stove. Cover and heat to boil. Form batter into 1” balls. Add to pot once water boils. When water returns to a low boil, cover  and simmer until the dumplings are cooked  and fluffy, about 20-25 minutes (cut one open, there should be no raw or hard spots). Turn off heat. Hold in covered pot for up to an hour. Drain. Serve warm in hot soup. If needed, reheat in simmering water or broth.
Chicken graphic courtesy Microsoft Office Clip Art. Adapted by me.  A version of this article first appeared in j. Weekly.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

All Mixed Up -- a Crazy North African Dish for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

This vegan shashuka (means crazy, all mixed up with lots of other spellings including shashooka) is traditionally a spicy tomato based stew from North Africa that has been adapted and adopted all across Israel.  Usually eggs are poached in the sauce (which can range from mild to fiery), but I put  cubes of medium firm tofu in the stew and heated them through just before serving.  Serve with crusty bread or pita. It will also work well on top of pasta, rice or grains.
I didn't take notes but my basic technique was to brown 1/2 onion and 4-5 cloves of minced garlic in oil (I used peanut), add a tsp. or more of cumin, salt and pepper and sauté a bit.  Then I added 5-6 roughly chopped tomatoes and large red pepper chopped and sautéed until peppers began to soften, adding a bit of water as needed.  Add small can of tomato sauce (8 oz.) OR a few heaping Tbs. tomato sauce and a cup or so of hot water, adding more water as needed to keep dish a bit on the saucy side (I used the tomato paste option in this version).  Add a heaping Tbs. or to taste -- Yemenite hot relish (z'hug) or harissa or chile garlic paste.  Mix well. Sauté until simmering.  Add a few handfuls of chopped kale or other greens.  Once they begun to wilt, add 1 lb. rinsed and drained (but not pressed) tofu cubes. (I cut the tofu cake in half horizontally then cut the 2 halves into cubes. Too large the cubes are hard to eat, too small and they will disintegrate into the sauce.  I think I cut each half into about 12 cubes) 
This is often thought of as a breakfast food, but I like it as a light meal anytime.  It is very versatile and other or additional vegetables can easily be added.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Make Your Own Almond Milk -- It's Utterly Easy and Delicious

Fresh-made almond milk is amazing and incredibly easy to make. It is very customizable and avoids all the thickeners and additives commercial almond milk has. (Although it doesn't have the fortified vitamins or calcium, either.)  I like to pour it in my cereal or drink it plain or flavored with chocolate syrup.  It is a good base for recipes calling for non-dairy milks.  It works okay in coffee if you drink it right away. (It separates out when left sitting, so you'll need to give your hot drink a stir if you linger.)
It lasts for 3-4 days in the refrigerator, just shake before using if it separates out.
This recipe makes a slightly creamy, nutty flavored milk.  Add agave syrup or other sweetener to taste if you'd like afterwards. (I skip that.)  A bit of vanilla or cinnamon would also be nice additions. 

Almond Milk
Makes slightly more than 2 cups
Once your nuts have soaked, this recipe takes longer to describe than do.  (If your tap water doesn't have a nice, clean taste use filtered or bottled water.)
Equipment notes -- You'll need a nut milk bag -- a reusable, closely woven mesh bag available from Whole Foods and other natural foods retailers -- to strain and squeeze the milk through.  If this is not available, line a colander or strainer with several thickness of cheesecloth, leaving enough cloth overlapping the sides that you can gather the ends together, twist it tight and squeeze the milk out.
You'll also need a blender -- I used a regular home blender with a pretty strong motor.  You can use one less or more powerful, just watch for when the nuts are totally pulverized.
1 cup shelled raw almonds (with skins - no need to blanch or rub off the skins)
Water to cover
2 1/2 cups water
Cover almonds with water and let sit overnight (8-10 hours).  Drain and discard water.  Rinse almonds several times.  Put in blender jar with 2 1/2 cups water.  Blend until almonds are totally pulverized and only infinitesimal bits.  Pour into nut milk bag that is propped up in a large bowl or a 4-cup measuring cup. (Make sure it is big enough to catch the almond milk that will soon be flowing through the bag.) Scrape out all the liquid and solids that remain behind into the bag.
Lift nut bag up out and over the bowl and squeeze (as if you were milking a cow if you like that analogy) until all possible liquid is squeezed out of the pulverized nuts.  Transfer to storage container, stir in any sweeteners or flavoring, cap/cover and store in refrigerator.  Shake well if milk separates.
If you like yours creamier or thinner, use more or less water. 
You can discard the leftover bits of almond or reuse.  Reusing seems like a great idea, but I never seem to do that.  Maybe next time I'll use in a cake or stew.
Update:  Added the nut meal to a soup.  It gave it a creamy texture with a pleasant grit, plus it amped up the protein.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ethiopian Lentil Stew - Messor Wot

You can read the back story and explanations here, but I wanted to be sure this wonderful vegan recipe was also posted here.  If you need gluten free not only is the wot (sometimes written wat) gluten free, but if you can find real injera, check to see if it's 100 percent teff.  Teff is also gluten free.

I buy injera (a fermented flatbread) premade from a local vendor, but often Ethiopian restaurants will sell you an order very reasonably.

I wrap leftovers in injera or other flatbread with mango chutney for a quick lunch.

Messor Wot – Ethiopian Lentil Stew
Serves 6
This is my adaptation of a traditional lentil stew. Berbere is available from some specialty markets and on line. See my post at for a substitution and another vegan Ethiopian inspired recipe. Cooking time is approximate. Sometimes lentils will take longer to cook. Works well made in advance and reheated.

2 red onions, finely chopped
2 Tbs. minced garlic
2 Tbs. plus 2 Tbs. tomato paste
1/3 to ½ cup berbere
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cardamom
½ cup olive oil
4 cups water
1 lb. lentils (green or brown supermarket style)
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. salt

In a large, heavy pot over medium high heat, add onions (with no oil or other fats), cook until translucent and soft (about 5-10 minutes). Stir if needed or add a bit of hot water if browning. Do not let brown or burn. Add garlic and 2 Tbs. tomato paste. Stir well and cook for a few minutes. Add berbere, ginger and cardamom. Stir and sauté for 5 minutes, adding hot water if needed to keep from sticking or burning. Add oil, stir well, cook for 5 minutes. Add lentils, mix well. Add 4 cups water. Bring to simmer. Cover and simmer until lentils are soft and falling apart, about 35-40 minutes. Sauce should be thick and not at all soupy, but add hot water if needed. Add remaining tomato paste, pepper and salt. Mix well. Let cook a few more minutes. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve with green salad with injera (Ethiopian flat bread), millet or rice.