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.