Friday, January 29, 2010

Tuesday, January 19th

This blog entry is sadly late, as I’m getting ready for a trip out of the country, but want to get it published while my memory is still fresh. This was a vegan night led by Guest Chef Phil Gelb ( Here’s what we made:

Winter Vegetable Bean Soup—I’m generally not a fan of soups that have lots of chunky stuff in them, and this one was definitely that. I tend to prefer blended soups that then have several garnishes, not a brothy soup that has a whole bunch of stuff floating around. But this one was chock full of so many ingredients, some large, some small, some with skin, some naked, but the thing that held it altogether for me was a really great flavor to the broth. I was especially skeptical of the kabocha chunks with the skin on them but ended up enjoying the taste, texture, and even the peeling experience along the way. And garlicky broth is good broth. In all, I give it a score of 6 bucks.

Blood Orange, Fennel, and Watercress Salad—Again, another dish with a lot going on, and again, a really good dish. When Phil described this dish, he talked about how blood oranges were his favorite citrus, and I really developed a new love for the fruit on this night. This salad was wonderfully complex, citrusy but really interestingly so, crunchy and juicy, tart and sweet. I would have liked to have had a bit more vinegar in the dressing, but apart from that, it was a really excellent salad. I give it a score of 7 bucks but it could have very easily been .5 higher with a bit more tang.

Tempeh Marsala—for many people, this was their favorite dish. Not for me. Phil makes his own tempeh, and it’s really good stuff to start with. I really like that it was fried—I guess I like most anything fried—but the Marsala and spicing was not enough for me. It was a bit too delicate, and I think that I would have really liked several shots of soy sauce on each piece. With this said, I kept eating it, so it couldn’t have been all bad, and thus I give it a score of 5.5 bucks.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts and Olives—this dish had the potential to be really good but for me fell short. I like Brussels sprouts and I love pine nuts and olives, but there wasn’t enough holding the pieces together. The sprouts, in my opinion, were undercooked and not sufficiently flavored. I wanted the flavor and texture of the pine nuts and olives to be infused in the sprouts, but they were really more of a garnish, and I wanted more of that since that was the flavorful part. Perhaps it could have been improved by some balsamic vinegar or some lemon, or by chopping the sprouts smaller so that everything was more uniformly sized, but as it was, I can only give it a score of 4.5 bucks.

Pear Crisp—this was a really nice dessert. The pears were perfectly cooked, the topping was outstanding, and Phil had made some wonderful cashew nut ice cream that was to die for. Was it pumpkin flavored? In any case, perfectly baked fruit is a nice thing, especially with some grains and nuts and other dried fruit on top, so I can do nothing but give it a score of 7 bucks.

Overall—this was quite a nice meal with several highlights for me. And like “A Prairie Home Companion”, all the dishes were above average. And in all, a meal valued at 30 bucks is quite a bargain for 8, and this one was. Here are the recipes…

Winter Vegetable Bean Soup

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

½ C olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 leeks, diced
6 t sea salt
4 stalks celery, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 fennel bulbs, diced
2 potatoes, diced
1 small kabocha, seeded and diced
1 radicchio, diced
2 bulbs garlic, diced
4 tsp dried thyme
4 tsp dried oregano
2 cups red wine
18 cups stock
2 cups cooked beans
3 cups basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 lemons zest and juice

1. In a soup pot, heat olive oil, add onions, leeks and salt and let sweat for 10 minutes.
2. Add the next nine ingredients (through thyme and oregano) and cook 5 minutes.
3. Add red wine to deglaze and let most of it evaporate.
4. Add the stock and cooked beans. Bring to a simmer.
5. Add fresh herbs, lemon juice and zest at the end. Season to taste and serve.

Serves 18

Blood Orange, Fennel, and Watercress Salad

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

Dressing Ingredients
Zest and juice of 3 blood oranges
2 T balsamic vinegar
4 T champagne vinegar
2/3 C olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 shallot, minced
½ t sea salt

Salad Ingredients
2 bulbs fennel, shaved
3 bunches watercress leaves, chopped
7 blood oranges, sectioned removing all the pith
20 green olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 C walnuts, toasted

1. Mix together the dressing ingredients thoroughly.
2. Combine the fennel and watercress and dress.
3. Top with blood oranges, green olives, and walnuts

Serves 10

Tempeh Marsala

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

Olive oil
½ lb tempeh, sliced into ½ inch strips
Kosher salt
1/3 C Marsala

1. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Coat lightly with olive oil.
2. Fry strips on one side until brown.
3. Turn over—only once—and brown on the other side.
4. Sprinkle with salt and add the Marsala wine at the end, after it browns. Cook 10 seconds and remove from heat.
5. Serve warm.

Serves 4

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts and Olives

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

1 lb Brussels sprouts
1 t sea salt
1 T safflower or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T pine nuts
10 olives, chopped

1. Trim Brussels sprouts and cut in half.
2. Place sprouts on a roasting pan and sprinkle with salt, oil and garlic. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for 15 minutes.
3. After 15 minutes, remove foil, add pine nuts and olives, and roast for an additional 10 minutes, or until sprouts are al dente and slightly caramelized.

Serves 8

Pear Crisp

Adapted from Phil Gelb’s January 2010 Guest Chef Night

Topping Ingredients
1 ½ C rolled oats
¼ C buckwheat flour
1/3 C walnuts, chopped
¼ C Earth Balance or other vegan margarine
¼ C maple syrup or agave

Pear Ingredients
8 pears, cored and sliced thin
1 t cinnamon
1 T kudzu or potato starch
½ t sea salt
½ t allspice
¼ t cloves
2 T maple syrup or agave
½ C dried cranberries

1. Mix together the oats, buckwheat, and walnuts, then add the Earth Balance and syrup.
2. Mix all of the pear ingredients together and then place in a baking dish.
3. Place the topping on top of the pears, covering the pears completely.
4. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until it starts to bubble up on the sides.
5. Serve warm with ice cream.

Serves 8-12

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And a Local Story about Frugal Foodies in Berkeley...

Seattle Frugal Foodies in the News

This story has a few typos and a few factual errors, but should help tell the story about Frugal Foodies debut in Seattle:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tuesday, January 12th

This was the first vegan night using a series of menus provided by Julie Motz. We’re calling these “Julie’s Vegan Nights”, and this first one did not disappoint. We made a series of dishes, some rather easy, at least one quite involved, and the full house seemed to enjoy themselves quite a bit. Here’s what we made:

African Yam Soup with Ground Nuts—you all may know that I love a good soup, and I make quite a few excellent ones, so it takes quite a soup to impress me. This one did. I have a handful of soups that I make regularly that are can’t miss, and I think that this one will be added to the mix. Great taste, wonderful texture, and quite distinct from anything that I’ve ever had. I loved it. And some of it may have come as a mistake since I don’t think that the group had enough space in their pot for the mass quantity we were making so the soup ended up a bit thicker than intended. And what a soup it was. I give it a nearly perfect score of 7.5 bucks.

Cumin Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms—also a very tasty dish, though I think that the mushrooms were not roasted quite long enough. There’s a note in the recipe saying that the mushrooms should be roasted until they are dry, and these weren’t. I think that the flavor and texture would have been richer had the group broiled them longer. Still they were excellent and I went back for seconds. I give it a score of 6 bucks, but I think that it could have scored a buck higher with proper cooking.

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Crepes with Edamame Sauce—this was the most difficult of the dishes, and it’s one of those recipes that I’m not sure has to be so hard (for the record, I shortened the name of this dish, and it's still far too long...that should be a sign that something is amiss). For me, it had too much going on, and I think that it would have been better as a simpler dish. There were some very good elements to it, the shiitake mushrooms being outstanding, the crepes well cooked, but overall it was lacking. I think that had they been shiitake mushroom crepes with a simple creamy sauce, edamame or otherwise, it would have scored much higher. Still I give it a score of 5 bucks with room for improvement.

Warm Cabbage Salad—this is a recipe that was condensed in terms of cooking time to meet the Frugal Foodies format of no more than an hour and a half of prep and cooking time. It suffered because of it. The original recipe called for at least two hours of marinating, which I shortened to an hour, and so the cabbage was not as flavorful as it was the next day when I tried it. Still, something was missing for me, perhaps the onions were too big, perhaps there weren’t enough toasted walnuts, but it was not what it could have been. So with potential for something more, I give it a score of 4.5 bucks.

Carrot Cake—this was a recipe that I also abridged with better results. It was supposed to be a quite involved cake with frosting and walnuts but we made only the cake. Vegan cakes are often tricky but this one turned out well. It was moist—and perhaps would have benefited from a few more minutes baking—and well flavored with a mix of lots of funky spices. Might be nice to try it with all the extras (if we had the time and energy to do it) but it was pretty good as it. I give it a score of 5.5 bucks.

Overall—a good meal, and especially so for being vegan. The overall score was 28.5 bucks. If I were to make this menu on my own, I’d cut out the cabbage, simplify the crepes as discussed, and it would be a quite lovely meal. Here are the recipes…

African Yam Soup with Ground Nuts

Adapted from the Artful Vegan

2 t olive oil
2 red onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 t fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/3 t ground cloves
½ t ground cardamom
½ t ground allspice
1 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground cumin
2 t chili powder
¼ t cayenne pepper
1 c orange juice
½ t orange zest
3 yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
16 oz can diced tomatoes
6 c vegetable stock
½ c creamy peanut butter
¼ c light miso
salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro, lime wedges, and chopped peanuts as garnish

1. Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté, stirring often, for ten minutes or until the onions are lightly caramelized. Add the next seven spices and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the orange juice and zest, yams, tomatoes, and stock, stir, and let simmer for 40 minutes, or until the yams are very soft.
2. Add the peanut butter and miso and puree the soup until smooth.
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with garnishes.

Serves 6

Cumin Balsamic Roasted Mushrooms

Adapted from the Artful Vegan

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cumin seeds, toasted and ground
½ t ancho chili powder
¼ t black pepper
3 T balsamic vinegar
3 T tamari
2 T olive oil
16 oz cremini or button mushrooms, well cleaned and trimmed

1. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the mushrooms. Whisk well.
2. Immerse the mushrooms completely in the marinade and let sit for at least 15 minutes.
3. Place the mushrooms, tops down, on a baking dish. Brush the mushrooms with the marinade and broil for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mushrooms are brown and dry.
4. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Crepes with Edamame Sauce

Adapted from the Artful Vegan

Edamame Sauce Ingredients
1 t canola oil
2 t toasted sesame oil
1 yellow onion, halved and sliced into thin crescents
¼ c ginger, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
1 ½ c pickled mustard greens or kimchee, diced
1 lb edamame, shelled
1 ½ c vegetable stock
2 t cornstarch, dissolved in ¼ cold water
2 limes, juiced
½ t ground white pepper
Salt to taste

Sauce Instructions
1. Heat the canola oil and 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the onions and ginger and sauté for two minutes, or until just wilted. Add the pickled greens and edamame. Cover with the stock and simmer for ten minutes.
2. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer for another five minutes, or until thickened.
3. Remove from heat. Add the lime juice, white pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Add salt to taste.

Eggplant and Shiitake Filling Ingredients
1 lb Chinese eggplant, halved lengthwise and cut diagonally into 1 inch thick slices
2 t canola oil
1 red onion, halved and sliced into thin crescents
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ t fermented black beans, coarsely chopped
2 t fresh ginger, peeled and minced
¼ t crushed red pepper flakes
6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 t tomato paste
2 T sucanat
3 T tamari
1 t toasted sesame oil

Filling Instructions
1. Blanch the eggplant for one minute in salted water and drain.
2. Using a wok or large sauté over high heat, add the canola oil and once it’s very hot, add the onions and garlic. Sauté for one minute. Add the black beans, ginger, pepper flakes, eggplant, and mushrooms, and sauté for 3-4 more minutes until the eggplant is just soft. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well, and cook until the sauce thickens and glazes the eggplant and mushrooms.

Crepe Ingredients
2 c brown rice flour
¼ c cornstarch
2 t egg replacer
½ t salt
½ thinly sliced scallions
2 t black sesame seeds, toasted
1 t toasted sesame oil
¾ c soy milk, plus more as needed

Crepe Instructions
1. Combine the rice flour, cornstarch, egg replacer, salt, scallions, and sesame seeds in a mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine the sesame oil with the soy milk. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, using more soy milk as necessary to achieve a pancake-like batter.
2. Using a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, spray the pan with vegetable oil, and ladle 1/3 cup of the batter onto the center of skillet. Tilt and rotate the skillet to form a 6-7 inch crepe. Cook for 90 seconds (or until the edges start to brown) and then flip and cook for another 30 seconds.
3. Transfer the crepe to a large plate and repeat the process. Continue to stack the crepes as they are cooked, covering the stack with a moist towel.

Garnish Ingredients
½ bunch Thai basil
6 T kecap manis
6 T peanuts, toasted
6 T thinly sliced scallions
4 oz enoki mushrooms

Serving Instructions
1. Fill the crepes with 1 cup of the filling and some basil leaves in each one, and rolling them closed.
2. Place crepe on a plate atop 1/3 cup of the edamame sauce. Serve and enjoy with additional garnishes.

Serves 6

Warm Cabbage Salad

Adapted from the Artful Vegan

1 head red cabbage, shredded
½ c umeboshi vinegar
¼ c olive oil
1 red onion, halved crosswise and cut into ¼ inch crescents
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t coarsely ground caraway seeds
2 T balsamic vinegar
½ t black pepper
3 c loosely packed spinach, cut chiffonade
¾ c walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
6 T basil, cut chiffonade

1. Place the cabbage in a large mixing bowl and toss with the vinegar. Cover the bowl with a bag weight the top down with some plates and let it sit for at least an hour at room temperature. After an hour, drain the cabbage of excess vinegar.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for three minutes, or until the garlic just starts to brown. Add the caraway seeds and the cabbage and cook for 3-5 minutes until heated through.
3. Remove from heat and add the balsamic vinegar and black pepper.
4. Serve the cabbage mixture atop a bed of spinach chiffonade and top with walnuts and basil.

Serves 6

Carrot Cake

Adapted from the Artful Vegan

1 whole nutmeg
½ t whole cloves
½ t whole white peppercorns
1 ½ t cinnamon
1 ½ t ginger powder
½ t mustard powder
2 ½ c all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
¼ t baking soda
½ t salt
½ c canola oil, plus more as needed
1 c pure maple syrup
1 ½ t lemon juice
¾ c soy milk
1 t vanilla
2 c carrots, shredded
¾ c walnuts, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the nutmeg, cloves and peppercorns in a spice grinder and grind until fine. Place into a large bowl. Sift in the next seven ingredients and combine.
3. In another bowl, combine the oil, maple syrup, lemon juice, soy milk, and vanilla.
4. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in the carrots and nuts, just enough to combine.
5. Pour the mixture into prepared pans and bake for 40-45 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean.
6. Let cool before serving.

Serves 10

Frugal Foodies Opens in Seattle

I was lucky enough to be in attendance for the grand opening of the new Frugal Foodies in Seattle last Wednesday. It was quite a night and quite a menu. I'm not going to review the menu now but I will be sure to copy it at one of the Frugal Foodies here in Berkeley. Their menu was all about beets, and it wasn't too "beety". In fact, some of the recipes were out of this world. Here's what they had:

Roasted Beet Crostini
Golden Beet Salad
Beet, Broccoli and Spinach Quinoa
Beet Chocolate Cake

All of the recipes were above average, and a few I would have scored at 7 bucks or above. So it was a very good meal at an always good price, and I'm hoping that they'll keep it going 2-4 times a month. Please help spread the word and stay tuned for our next Frugal Foodies opening in Bogota, Colombia.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 15th

‘Twas the night before Christmas and finally a bit of time to write a long-overdue blog entry. Frugal Foodies didn’t happen this past Tuesday as we didn’t have enough registrants, and I had planned to dedicate the evening to catching up on the blog (from the week before) but a game of Scrabble got in the way. And fortunately so since I now get to include something about a dinner I had last night.

I had dinner last night at Oliveto in Oakland. I had never been there before and went for a friend’s birthday. I’m often skeptical about “nice” restaurants and especially so in large groups. Part of this was my rationale for starting Frugal Foodies. I’m doubtful than any meal is “worth” more than $20, and if I’m going to pay any multiples of that, the meal better be damn good.

I should say that the overall event was very enjoyable and that Oliveto seems nice enough, but they should have been embarrassed by the entree that they served me. Really embarrassed. As someone who wants to open up a restaurant one day, I’d want for everyone to consistently rave about every dish on the menu, and certainly not feel that they were being ripped off. The dish that I ordered was one that the server described as “wonderful”: Spaghetti with black truffles and walnuts. The pasta was either undercooked or just bad, the flavor was absolutely unimpressive, and I’d be surprised if they invested more than $1 in a dish that they were charging $19.50 for. Using the Frugal Foodies scoring scale, I’d give the dish 1.5 bucks, which basically makes it memorable only for how bad it is.

When I give a dish at Frugal Foodies a low score, many cooks seem to take it personally. They shouldn’t. Fact is that I pick most of the recipes and that the score is generally about the recipe and not the cooks. Sure, there are cooking screw-ups along the way, but it’s rare that the cooks at Frugal Foodies are ruining a dish. A dish at Oliveto, on the other hand, IS the responsibility of the cooks…and of the chef, the management, the owners, and maybe even the servers. I probably should have sent the dish back, but they shouldn’t have served it in the first place. This is my long way of saying that I’m a tough critic, and that we seem to be programmed to settle for a lot of overpriced, mediocre food. Not at Frugal Foodies!

Last Tuesday, we had a Guest Chef Night at Frugal Foodies. Our guest chef was Jina Shah, who gave us a mostly Indian and entirely vegan menu. I think that most of you know that I’m not a huge fan of all things vegan, but this meal was generally good and altogether healthy (Jina is a doctor and very much into healthy eating). Here are the five dishes that we made:

Grilled Okra with Pomegranate—this dish was the highlight of the night for me. I love okra a lot, but this dish will please even the non okra-lovers. This is a dish that can be done on the grill, though we did it on trays in the oven and it was just fine. While the okra was nicely cooked, it was the sweet juice that put it over the top. While the pomegranate juice was nice, it’s on the pricy side, and I’m quite certain that the dish would have been equally good using cranberry juice, or really any other berry juice. I give it a score of 6.5 bucks.

Red Cabbage, Apple, and Edamame Salad—this salad was pretty good but not great. I thought that the ingredients were solid but it was lacking a compelling dressing. Interestingly, I think that the pomegranate sauce from the okra dish would have worked well on this salad, though really any tasty dressing would have been an improvement over the lemon juice. Still, I give it a score of 5 bucks.

California Quinoa Khichdi—again, a dish that had some promise but not enough flavor for me. The grains were well cooked and I liked the texture combination of the quinoa and lentils. But it ended up tasting more healthy than tasty. It was more porridge than gourmet, and it would have been nice to have some of the latter. The flavor was supposed to be provided by the kadhi (which follows), but that was lacking. As is, I give it a score of 4 bucks.

Kadhi—As mentioned, the kadhi was the sauce for the khichdi, and it might have been good had the sauce been a bit thicker, and if it had packed more of a punch. I think that this was the one recipe that suffered from being vegan in that the soy yogurt didn’t have the tang of dairy yogurt, and the flavoring just seemed off. It’s too bad since I’m a big fan of curry leaves, but the overall effect left much to be desired for me. I give it a score of 2 bucks.

Carob Fudge Combo—This dessert was a big surprise. I was skeptical about an unbaked fudge type thingy, but this dessert was very good both in terms of taste and texture. Chocolaty (OK, carob), peanut buttery, nutty, coconutty, sweet (but with no added sugar). My only critique was that the “fudge” didn’t cut super easily, and I think that the dish would have been much better shaped into balls and maybe coated with coconut or powdered sugar. I recommend this for anyone looking for a natural, low sugar, gluten-free dessert. This one’s a winner and gets a score of 6.5 bucks.

Overall—this was generally a tasty meal with a few ups and downs. Its total score of 24 bucks is many times greater than my Oliveto meal at a small fraction of the cost. And not only was this meal super healthy, but it was cruelty-free, and not at all cruel to the wallet. Here are the recipes…

Grilled Okra with Pomegranate

Adapted from the December, 2009 Guest Chef Night of Jina Shah and the Vegetarian Table, India, by Yamuna Devi

2 lbs small, bright green okra
3 pomegranates or ¾ cup pomegranate juice
2 T maple syrup
1 t fresh lemon juice
2 T cold pressed peanut oil
Olive oil spray
3 T chopped cilantro

1. Wash okra and pat dry with an absorbent towel. Trim okra tops and skewer them lengthwise. Set aside in a shallow dish.
2. To make fresh pomegranate juice, roll fruit around to release juices inside. Halve and squeeze on a citrus reamer. Strain juice through a fine sieve.
3. Combine juice, maple syrup and lemon juice in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil . Lower heat and reduce mixture to a syrupy consistency, stirring steadily toward the end to prevent scorching to yield about 3 tablespoons.
4. Stir in oil and brush pomegranate glaze on the okra.
5. Spray okra with olive oil.
6. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Spread okra out in single layer on baking trays, roast until browned.
7. Serve hot, sprinkled with cilantro and salt.

Serves 6-8

Red Cabbage, Apple, and Edamame Salad

Adapted from the December, 2009 Guest Chef Night of Jina Shah

2 T olive oil
1 medium head of red cabbage (about 6 c), shredded
2 t salt
1 t cumin powder
1 t cayenne pepper
1 cup edamame, thawed
4 apples, diced into bite sized pieces
Juice of one lemon

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot on high heat and add cabbage, salt, cumin, and cayenne. Stir fry for 10 minutes and adding water if the cabbage begins to stick.
2. Add edamame and apples and continue to cook until apples are slightly soft but not overcooked. Remove from heat.
3. Add lemon, check salt and spice level, add more, in the same proportions, if necessary.
4. Serve hot or cold

Serves 8-10

California Quinoa Khichdi

Adapted from the December, 2009 Guest Chef Night of Jina Shah

1 cup mung dal
1 cup quinoa
4 ½ cups water
2 tsp canola or sesame oil
½ t whole cumin seeds
¼ t mustard seeds
1 t cumin/coriander powder
1 t garam masala
1 ½ t salt
¼ t cayenne pepper
¼ t turmeric
1 pinch asafetida, optional
1 medium tomato, chopped
½ cup arugula, kale or mustard greens, chopped
Cilantro for garnish

1. Rinse mung dal and discard rinse water. Thoroughly rinse the quinoa. Combine the two and add water so that there is a total of 4 ½ cups of water.
2. Bring to boil on stove and then lower heat, stir several times, until both grains plump up. Keep heat on low while you add the rest of the ingredients and add water as needed so the mixture doesn’t stick.
3. In a small pot, heat oil, then add mustard seeds. After 20 seconds or so, add whole cumin seeds. After the mustard seeds pop but before the cumin seeds burn, add them to the pot with the grains. Add cumin/coriander powder, garam masala, salt, cayenne pepper, turmeric, and asafetida to main pot. Add tomato and greens, and season with salt to taste.
4. Top with cilantro and eat with Kadhi.

Serves 4


Adapted from the December, 2009 Guest Chef Night of Jina Shah

1 cup soy yogurt
1 ½ cups water
2 t chickpea flour
4 T water
1 t sesame oil
1 t whole cumin
1 pinch mustard seeds
1 pinch turmeric
3-4 curry leaves, fresh or dry (see directions below for difference in cooking method)
1 t freshly ground ginger
1 t salt
1/8 cup cilantro, chopped
1 t spicy green chili peppers, freshly ground (optional)

1. In one pot, mix soy yogurt and water.
2. In a separate bowl mix chickpea flour in 4 Tbsp water. Remove lumps by pressing with a spoon, and if needed, strain through a strainer. Add to the pot with soy yogurt.
3. In a very small pot, warm the sesame oil, then add cumin, mustard seeds, and turmeric. If curry leaves are fresh, also add them to the oil and spice mixture. If not, add them directly to the pot with yogurt and chickpea flour mixture.
4. Add the oil and spice mixture to the pot with yogurt and chickpea flour. Heat entire mixture until warm. Add ginger, salt and optionally, chili pepper. Remove from heat.
5. Add cilantro as garnish, serve over Khichdi, and enjoy.

Serves 4

Carob Fudge Combo

Adapted from the December, 2009 Guest Chef Night of Jina Shah

1 c chopped dates
1 c water divided
½ c carob powder, sifted
1 c peanut butter
½ c coconut
1 c chopped walnuts or ½ c slivered almonds + ½ c raisins
1 t vanilla

1. Cook dates in ½ cup water until they are very soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
2. Combine ½ cup water with the carob powder in a small saucepan. Boil carob mixture, stirring, for 5 minutes until it becomes a smooth paste.
3. Combine the dates, carob mixture, and the remaining ingredients. Press into an 8 inch square pan. Refrigerate.
4. Once cold, cut into squares.

Makes 2 dozen squares

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tuesday, November 24th

We did this night as a special vegetarian Thanksgiving event, and I was committed to having something a bit out of the ordinary, something that didn’t make me feel bloated at the end of the meal, something that was not all about the Tofurkey. And on all fronts, the meal did not disappoint, and I actually think that I liked it a bit better than I liked the real Thanksgiving a few days later, at least as far as the menu was concerned. Here’s what we made:

Pumpkin Soup—I really think that soup should be part of all Thanksgiving meals. It’s the cold time of the year, the Thanksgiving meal ingredients lend themselves to soup, and it just seems that if Passover has a soup in a leading role, so should Thanksgiving. So that’s the long way of saying that we made a soup, and even though it wasn’t great, I do think soup should be a mainstay. This pumpkin soup was not bad, but was far from great. It was one of those soups that restaurants serve to prepare the palate, not to be remembered, and this one I’ve forgotten already. I’m a big fan of my pumpkin soup done in a Mexican style, and I’ll share that recipe at some point soon, so this one just didn’t stack up. Again, not bad, but only merits a score of 4 bucks.

Veggie Loaf with Mushroom Sauce—for some reason, I tend to make veggie loaves with my Thanksgiving meal to help add some protein to the whole equation, and they’re invariably disappointing. This one was different. It was mostly lentils and was decently seasoned. Only problem is that it didn’t stick together very well so it was more of a veggie pile than a meatloaf. Perhaps blending some of the lentils or throwing a few eggs and flour in would have helped bind it, but the flavor was still nice, and the mushroom sauce had a wonderful taste. The consistency was also off on that—much too watery—but that’s easily adjustable by adding less water or using more arrowroot powder thus turning it into a nice, thick gravy. Anyway, put the two together and you get a score of 5.5 bucks, with potential for significantly more.

Shepherd’s Pie—life lesson to live by from this point forward is if you ever have to choose between a veggie loaf and a veggie Shepherd’s Pie for Thanksgiving, pick the pie. This particular version had a wonderful veggie medley and was topped by nearly perfect mashed potatoes (replete with butter and cream cheese). Let all that get brown and bubbly and you’ve got something really good. I’m torn between a 6.5 and a 7 so I’ll go with the latter since this group did such a nice job of cutting and cooking the vegetables. 7 bucks it is!

Cranberry Tart—this was a new one for me. I always think of cranberries as an accompaniment, not the main dish, and while I love cranberries in their many forms, I was a bit skeptical about a dessert that was all about the cranberries. But I’m a skeptic no more as this was quite good. Now if you’re looking for a really sweet dish at the end of a starch-filled meal to really put you to sleep, this is not the dish for you. This tart, was, well, tart, and quite refreshing in that regard. I had to add some honey over the top to sweeten up a bit, but it had a really nice taste and I would definitely make it again. The crust left something to be desired, and it might be because we were trying to make a vegan and gluten-free version, but that’s easy enough to correct the next time around. As is, I give it a score of 6 bucks.

Overall—so not only did I not feel bloated, but I think that we all had a very nice meal. The total score was 22.5 bucks, and there’s room for improvement on top of that for the next time that the meal is cooked. Here are the recipes…

Pumpkin Soup

Adapted from

1½ pounds pumpkin (weighed before trimming)
1 leek, washed, trimmed, and sliced into rings
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 T olive oil
1 Q vegetable stock
½ t salt
1 t pepper
½ - 1 t cayenne pepper
1 T lemon juice
½ c sour cream or crème fraîche, optional

1. Cut the top off the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and strings, peel the shell, and dice the flesh.
2. Sauté the pumpkin, leek, and potatoes in olive oil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Cover and boil the soup for 15 minutes, until potatoes are soft.
3. Purée the soup and add spices and lemon juice.
4. Ladle into bowls, top with optional sour cream or crème fraîche, and serve.

Serves 6

Veggie Loaf

Adapted from

1 c dry lentils, well rinsed
2½ c water
½ t salt
1 T olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
½ t pepper
1 t soy sauce, optional
¾ c rolled oats, finely ground
¾ c bread crumbs

1. Place the lentils, water, and salt in saucepan, bring to a boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes, until water is nearly gone and lentils are very soft, with splitting skins.
2. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and carrot in oil until soft, about 5 minutes.
3. Mix the lentils, onions, carrots, pepper, and optional soy sauce in the large bowl, then mix in the ground oats and bread crumbs.
4. Pour into a greased bread pan and bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Serves 6

Mushroom Sauce

Adapted from

3 c vegetable stock
2 T arrowroot powder or flour
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 t dried thyme
1 t salt
black pepper
½ c dry white wine
3 T soy sauce
¼ c nutritional yeast
¼ c soy milk

1. Whisk together vegetable stock and arrowroot powder until dissolved, and set aside.
2. Heat oil, add onions and garlic, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add soy sauce and vegetable broth, bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Whisk in nutritional yeast until it dissolves, then whisk in soy milk for a minute. Let cool slightly before serving.
3. To make this into a gravy, continue to thicken with flour or arrowroot powder.

Makes 4 Cups

Shepherd's Pie

Adapted from

2 to 2½ c potatoes
2-4 T butter
Milk or cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
2½ T olive or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ c onion, minced
1 large tomato, chopped
6 c mixed vegetables, finely chopped. Some possibilities:
- bell peppers
- carrots
- celery
- corn
- green beans
- leeks
- mushrooms
- peas
- spinach
- zucchini
1 c vegetable stock or water
1 t soy sauce
Pepper to taste
Garnish ideas: paprika, minced parsley, sesame seeds

1. Make mashed potatoes by boiling potatoes until tender and mashing while hot along with butter and milk or cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 T oil over medium heat, add garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add onion and continue sautéing until soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomato and cook for two more minutes, stirring frequently. Add stock and vegetables, bring to boil, cover, lower heat, and cook until vegetables are tender, about 5-10 minutes. Add soy sauce and pepper, taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.
3. Preheat oven to 350. Use remaining ½ t oil to grease pie plate. Arrange vegetables in it, then cover with a layer of mashed potatoes. Garnish.
4. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 6

Cranberry Tart

Adapted from

1 batch pie crust dough
7 c fresh cranberries, washed and drained
2¼ c sugar
Zest of one orange, finely grated
Dash cinnamon
Dash salt
1 c flour
5 oz butter

1. Make the pie crust dough, form into slightly flattened ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine cranberries, ¾ c sugar, orange zest, cinnamon, and salt.
3. Combine flour, remaining 1½ c sugar, and butter in food processor and process until clumpy.
4. Preheat oven to 375. Shape the pie crust dough into a pie pan. Pour cranberries into pie crust so that they form a slight mound in the center. Drop slightly squished handfuls of topping on top.
5. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 40-45 minutes.
6. Allow to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Serves 10-12