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

Tuesday, November 10th

I’ve been remiss about writing this entry since I’ve been far too busy with my paid work for the last couple of weeks. It’s been nearly three weeks since I enjoyed this meal, and I’ve really wanted to blog about it even though my memory certainly does not get better over time. In any case, here goes my belated review, sadly less lucid and detailed than I would have liked…

November 10th was our Guest Chef Night in this offbeat month of November. My longtime friend, Roxanne Andersen, was at the helm, and she chose to create a mini-version of her 40th birthday party, which was in turn a maxi version of a typical night at Frugal Foodies. The theme for her party and for the night here was international finger foods or sort of like vegetarian tapas, California cuisine style. While at her party we made 7 or 8 dishes, at this Frugal Foodies we only made 4, though all of them were quite involved with the one non-party dish being the biggest hit. Here’s what we made:

Sopes—this dish is relatively new to me, a new twist on the soft taco if you will, and one that I really quite like. What’s nice about them is that they are thicker than tacos but then they’re loaded up with some of the same yummy toppings as my beloved tacos on the streets of Morelia. I’m not a huge fan of cabbage but in this dish it really works in combination with the black beans, queso fresco, and avocados. I think that this was my favorite of the entrée-type dishes and I remember enjoying them the next day as well. I give it a score of 6.5 bucks.

Pakoras—I’m normally a huge fan of pakoras—one of my favorite Indian dishes actually—but these ones fell short for me. Lots of people really liked them—especially with the mint chutney that was included (but is not being reviewed here)—but for me they were way too small. I’m not sure how they’re made as large as they are in the restaurants, but these came out tiny, more like Indian-style tempura—mind you with nearly diced vegetables—instead of the golf ball size treats that I’m used to. Perhaps it was that we didn’t have a deep-fryer like we had at Roxanne’s party, or maybe the batter was too thin but something didn’t work quite right for me. Still, anything battered and deep fried can’t be bad, so it still gets a score of 4.5 bucks, but it could have been so much more.

Summer Rolls with Citrus Vinaigrette—this was another dish that didn’t come together quite as well on this night as it did at the party. The thing about spring rolls is that they have to really be rolled well—that is to say, tightly—in order to hold together for the first bite, and then for subsequent bites. And that’s a function of what’s in them and how carefully they’re rolled. These were not rolled perfectly so they tended to fall apart, making them hard to dip in the sauce. Furthermore, I didn’t love the innards nor the dipping sauce. I much prefer a peanut sauce to a citrus sauce. Again, not bad on the whole, just not what they could have been, so I also give them a score of 4.5 bucks.

Apple-Quince Turnovers—this was the new recipe on the scene and it was fantabulous! The dough, the filling were pretty much perfect. You’ll see in the recipe below that the dough was made with butter and cream cheese, two of my more favorite ingredients for life, and it wasn’t too sweet. Flaky, moist, creamy, buttery, really outstanding. I think that the only thing that kept this dish from getting a perfect score was that for me the dough was rolled a bit too large and so the turnovers felt a little empty or too flat or just too something for them to be perfect. But still, I can’t give them anything less than a score of 7.5 bucks.

Overall—so that means that this meal gets an overall score of 23 bucks, lots more than the masses paid to enjoy it. That’s called “Return on Investment”, something that I strive to offer each and every week at Frugal Foodies. Now for the recipes…


Adapted from the Guest Chef Night of Roxanne Andersen

6 cups masa harina
3 cans refried black beans
1 lb queso fresco or goat cheese, feta, or Monterey Jack cheese
Green cabbage, ¼ head, very finely sliced
6 avocados, very thinly sliced
1 bunch cilantro, leaves plucked from stems
6 tomatoes, finely diced
6 limes

1. Follow directions on package to mix together 6 cups masa harina.
2. Roll masa into balls about 1 ¼ in diameter. Keep balls covered so they are moist.
3. Place a ball on a piece of plastic wrap and cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Pat down with your hands while rotating the dough until it is about ¼ in thick.
4. Heat a large griddle on medium heat, and lightly oil it. Cook in batches of about 6-8 on the griddle. Cook first side for about 2 minutes until the bottom has light brown speckles and then turn them over and cook the other side for another 2 minutes. Remove from the griddle and carefully pinch the edges to form a ridge. Return to the griddle and cook until firm throughout, about 2 more minutes. You now have your sopes ready to be topped with whatever you want.
5. While the sopes are being made, heat the refried beans and prepare all the vegetables.
6. Once the sopes are ready, spread the refried beans on first and then layer with the other toppings, just a little of each. Then slice open the limes and sprinkle a little lime juice on each one.

Makes 30-40


Adapted from The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking

2 2/3 cups chickpea flour
4 t melted ghee or vegetable oil
2 T lemon juice
½ t cayenne pepper
1 t turmeric
2 t garam masala or 1/2 t each cardamom, cumin, cinnamon and cloves
4 t ground coriander
2-3 t salt
1 cup plus 2 T cold water, or as needed
2/3 t baking powder, optional
Vegetable or vegetables from list below:
• Underripe banana, cut into rounds 1/3 in (1 cm) thick
• Cauliflower flowerets, 1 inch by 1.2 inch
• Yam, peeled and cut into rounds 1/8 inch thick
• Bell peppers, red and yellow, sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick, seeded and ribbed
• Zucchini, cut on the diagonal ¼ inch thick
• Spinach, medium-sized leaves, stemmed, washed and dried
Vegetable oil for frying

1. Combine the flour, melted ghee or oil, lemon juice, spices and salt in a bowl and mix well. Add ½ cup plus 2 T of water slowly, beating with a whisk until the batter is smooth and free of lumps. Slowly add 6 T more water to beat until well mixed. Check the consistency and if necessary slowly add remaining water until the batter resembles the consistency of heavy cream and easily coats a wooden spoon. Cover batter and set aside for 10-15 minutes
2. Prep all the vegetables.
3. Beat the batter again for 2-3 minutes to further lighten. Stir in the baking powder at this point if you prefer a cake-like crust.
4. Heat 2 ½ - 3 inches of oil in a wok or deep frying pan until the temperature reaches 355 degrees. Dip 5-10 of your selected ingredients in the batter and, one at a time, carefully slip them into the hot oil. The temperature will fall but should be maintained at between 345-355 degrees. Fry until the pakoras are golden brown, turning to brown evenly. Leafy greens may take as little as 1 or 2 minutes per side, while potatoes may take up to 5 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
5. Serve immediately, or keep warm, uncovered, in a preheated 250 degree oven until all the pakoras are fried.

Makes 50 – 70 pieces

Summer Rolls with Citrus Vinaigrette

Adapted from The Millennium Cookbook

Roll Ingredients
24 rice paper sheets (extra good for mistakes)
2 red onions, cut crosswise into thin slices
2 carrots, shredded
2 fennel bulbs, cut crosswise into thin slices
8 cups shredded red cabbage (1 small head)
6 T rice vinegar
2 T umeboshi vinegar or tamari soy sauce
4 T minced fresh cilantro
6 T finely shredded mint leaves
6 T finely shredded Thai basil or sweet basil leaves
2 mangos, cut into ¼ inch slices
6 T unsalted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Citrus Vinaigrette Ingredients
1 cup water
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 T sugar
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup champagne or rice vinegar
3 T tamari soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ t red pepper flakes
1 T minced fresh mint
2 T minced red bell pepper (optional)
1 t grated fresh ginger
Salt and pepper

1. In a large bowl, combine the onion, carrot, fennel, and cabbage with the rice and umeboshi (or soy sauce) vinegars. Let sit for 15 minutes, or until the cabbage softens. Stir in the cilantro, mint, and basil.
2. The Citrus Vinaigrette is served as a dipping sauce. Whisk together water, fresh lemon juice and sugar until well blended. Add orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, minced fresh mint, minced red pepper, ginger, salt and pepper. Whisk until well mixed.
3. Fill a shallow bowl or pie pan with warm water and taking one wrapper at a time, immerse in the water just until pliable. Remove quickly and lay on a work surface. Place 2 T of the cabbage filling in the center. Top with a few slices of mango and chopped peanuts. Fold and roll up like a burrito. Repeat.

Makes 24 rolls

Apple-Quince Turnovers

Adapted from Everyday Greens

Dough Ingredients
4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups fine cornmeal
6 T sugar
1 t salt
4 sticks unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 lb natural cream cheese

Filling Ingredients
2 T unsalted butter
1 cup plus ¾ cup sugar
1 t fresh lemon juice
4 large granny smith apples peeled and cut into ¾ inch cubes, about 3 cups
2 cups unfiltered apple juice
1 cup water
2 2-inch cinnamon sticks
4 large quince
5 T tapioca starch
2 egg yolks
4 T milk
1 T ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and set the oven rack to the middle position.
2. Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl and cut in the butter until the pieces are pea-size. Add the cream cheese and work until just combined, being careful not to overmix. There will still be white streaks of cream cheese striating the dough. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes
3. Melt the butter in a pan, add 4 T sugar, the salt and lemon juice, cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and bubbling, 2-3 minutes. Add the apples and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and set aside to cool.
4. Combine the apple juice, water, cinnamon stick, and ½ cup sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add the quince, and simmer until tender, 5-6 minutes. Set aside to cool.
5. Drain the quince, add the apples, and toss the fruit with the tapioca starch and the remaining sugar.
6. Whisk together the egg yolks and milk as a pastry egg wash. Mix the cinnamon and 1 cup sugar as a sprinkle for the top
7. Lightly flour a rolling pin and work surface. Roll the dough into 8 inch rounds about ¼ inch thick. Place 1/3 cup of the fruit in the center of the round and brush the edge with the egg wash. Fold the dough over the filling to form a half-moon. Seal and crimp the edges with the back of a fork. Brush the turnovers with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar.
8. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until golden, about 25 minutes.

Makes 16 turnovers

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday, October 20th

I’m sorry that it’s taken me an entire week to get this blog entry up, but I’ve been slammed with some projects, and it’s taken me all week to finish the leftovers and digest all of the really dairy rich dishes that we had on this Guest Chef Night. It was the first time in Frugal Foodies history that we had a virtual guest chef, Cecile Poyet, who wasn’t able to make it up from San Jose. She joined us via space phone, authentic French accent and all, and led us in veggie versions of some famous French dishes. As mentioned, it was a very rich meal, and one that I wouldn’t recommend eating on a daily basis. Here’s what we had:

French Onion Soup—this was a very flavorful soup. The base was a combination of veggie broth and white wine, and the equal parts of each was a bit too winey for me. I also think that they onions had a bit too much bite, either because they could have been cooked more or sliced a bit more thinly. But regardless, it was very tasty, and any soup topped with bread and melted cheese can’t be a bad thing. I give it a score of 5 bucks.

Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Walnuts—this was my favorite dish of the night until I got to the dessert. Any salad that has bitter greens, fruit, nuts, and cheese is alright by me, but it was the dressing that put it over the top. I had two critiques of the salad in that the breaded cheese patties, for me could have been a bit smaller—more bite size—and the dressing should have been put on the arugula and peaches before being topped with the cheese patties and walnuts. These two things could have really put this salad over the top, but still, I give this very yummy salad a score of 6.5 bucks.

Ratatouille—I was surprised to learn from Cecile that traditional ratatouille has meat in it. That’s crazy since I always had the veggie version of it, even before I was a vegetarian. In any case, this was a tastier dish the day after, and the drawback for me on the night of as the group of cooks added a bit too much spice—not in the recipe—to it for my liking. Ratatouille depends on perfectly cooked veggies and the group did a good but not perfect job on this. All in all, I thought that it was a good but not great dish, and give it a score of 5 bucks.

Bouchees a la Reine—this was the piece de resistance as a veggie version of sweetbreads in puff pastry. I liked many pieces of the dish but there was still something missing for me. First, I would have liked to have seen the puff pastry get really tall for presentation purposes, though it was very tasty even at half height. The fake sweetbread filling was made up of mushrooms and tofu in a white sauce, and though I would have never put them together, I thought that the tofu and mushrooms were a great combination, at least the way that they were prepared. But the sauce was far too bland for me, and that really hurt the dish. It could be spiced up in a number of ways, with chili, cheese, or sour cream as possibilities, and that would have made a world of difference. Still, I give the dish as score of 5.5 bucks.

Bittersweet Chocolate Fondant—this dessert got a bit overdone, but it was still out of this world. Had the cooking been right on, I do believe that this dish could have received the first perfect 8 score. Wowza! The batter was really wonderful but what brought this dish close to perfection were the squares of chocolate imbedded within each fondant, perfectly melted within the baked batter. Each bite exploded with liquefied dark chocolate. And this dish was great even days later after popping it in the microwave for thirty seconds. If you like chocolate, this dish is not to be missed. Just don’t overcook it. I give it a score of 7.5 bucks.

Overall—this was a pretty good night at Frugal Foodies, though when you put all of these rich dishes together, perhaps it’s a little too much. Still, it was a fun venture into French cuisine, especially for us vegetarians who can’t always enjoy all the treats outside of French fries. The overall score was 29.5 bucks, and it’s clear to me that with a few tweaks, this night could have scored as much as five bucks higher. Here are the recipes….

French Onion Soup

From the Guest Chef night of Cecile Poyet

3 medium-sized onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
1 tablespoon of flour
Broth made with 4 cups of white wine and 1 liter of vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
pepper and salt
6 slices of bread
4 tablespoons of grated cheese

1. Sautee the onions in butter, stirring regularly for 15 minutes. Add the flour and garlic, let the onions turn golden, then add the hot broth. Add the bay-leaf and cook for another 12 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Meanwhile, grill the bread either in the oven, on a grill or in the toaster.
3. Pour the soup in an ovenproof casserole, placing the slices of bread on top and covering with the grated cheese. Brown at 425 degrees for ten minutes. Alternately, melt the cheese on the bread in the oven and serve next to the soup.

Serves 8

Warm Goat Cheese Salad With Walnuts

Adapted from the Guest Chef night of Cecile Poyet

1 bunch arugula (or lettuce), rinsed and dried
2 fresh peaches - peeled, pitted and sliced
1 (4 ounce) package goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

1. Arrange the arugula and peaches in a large salad bowl. Set aside
2. In a skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in breadcrumbs. Cook and stir until slightly golden. Drop the goat cheese slices into the breadcrumbs a few at a time, and turn to coat in the breadcrumb mixture. Repeat for all of the goat cheese, removing the cheese once coated. When done, place them atop the arugula and peaches.
3. In the same skillet you used for the goat cheese, roast walnuts in olive oil for a few minutes.
4. Meanwhile, make the dressing by melting the honey in a microwave. Add mustard and stir with a whisk. Add olive oil, balsamic, and salt and stir well.
5. Place walnuts on salad, and drizzle with dressing.

Serves 6


Adapted from the Guest Chef night of Cecile Poyet

1 medium sized onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium or large eggplant, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
2 medium zucchini diced into large chunks
Herbs (basil, thyme, 1 bay leaf)
2+2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste.

1. Sauté the onion and red pepper in olive oil until tender. Add garlic and tomatoes. Stir in the herbs, add salt and pepper. Simmer, covered for 30 minutes
2. In a separate pan, sauté diced eggplant and zucchini in olive oil for 3-5 minutes. Add a cup of water or broth and simmer for another 10-15 minutes until vegetables are suitably soft. Remove from heat and add to the rest of the vegetables.
3. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Serves 6

Bouchées a la Reine

From the Guest Chef night of Cecile Poyet

6 round puff pastries
½ beaten egg
1 box of tofu, diced
4 cups Vegetable broth
1 box of mushrooms
1 onion

Sauce Ingredients
5 tablespoons of butter
3 cups of milk
1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cups of butter
Salt, pepper, nutmeg
Juice of ½ lemon

1. Pre-heat oven at 350F.
2. Place puff pastry onto a non stick oven dish, then brush the pastry all over with beaten egg. Place in oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until golden brown. When done, take out puffy pastries and remove their top, hollowing out the core. Set aside.
3. Meanwhile, boil tofu in broth for about 10 minutes. Drain the tofu and set aside.
4. Meanwhile, sauté onions, mushrooms and seasonings (salt and pepper) in 2-3 teaspoons of butter for 6 minutes. Add the tofu cubes to the sautéed onions and mushrooms. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.
5. To make the sauce, heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until melted. Progressively add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan or microwave.
7. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Cook 8 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and lemon juice.
8. Mix together sauce and mushroom stuffing. Fill the puff pastries with this mix.

Serves 6

Bittersweet Chocolate Fondant

Adapted from the Guest Chef night of Cecile Poyet

3.5 oz dark chocolate
10 chocolate squares
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup butter
1 T flour
Additional flour and butter for preparing ramekins or muffin tins

1. Pre-heat the oven to 500°F.
2. Melt the dark chocolate—not the squares--in a bain-marie, then add the butter. Remove from heat.
3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs and flour. Incorporate the chocolate and mix well.
4. Pour 1/3 of the mixture into five buttered and floured ramekins (or into muffin tins). Put 2 chocolate squares in the middle of each ramekin, then cover them with the remaining batter.
5. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Serves 5

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tuesday, October 13th

Last night was October’s vegan night, and I decided to reprise some recipes from a previous night that I had not yet reviewed. Or better stated, I reused two recipes from before and added two others, all from a corny but fairly good cookbook called “Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes”. And it turned out to be a decent night with one doozy and the other three better than average. In any case, here are the reviews:

Chickpea Soup—Leonardo da Vinci is in the news for a newly discovered masterpiece today. I’m sorry to say that it was for a painting and not for this dish. At first when I tasted this soup, I thought, ‘this is interesting’. Then as I ate more, I just thought, ‘this is bad’. So I’m sorry that I substituted this soup recipe on a cold and rainy day. Didn’t make the blues go away, and you should not cook this at home. Because it was interesting in the first bite, I give it a score of 1.5 bucks.

Walnut Rissoles—this is one of the repeat recipes and I think that it’s a solid one. It’s got a lot of good stuff all clumped together, kind of like vegan meatballs, chock full of protein. We baked them instead of deep-frying and they were still good that way. I think that the way to make these really good would be to serve them with some gravy or even a raspberry sauce, something gourmet and California cuisine-ish like that. But as is, I give it a score of 5.5 bucks.

Vegetable Korma—this seemed to be the real winner of the bunch, both because it had good flavor and because the vegetables were cooked perfectly. And because it was one of Gandhi’s all-time faves. What’s nice about this recipe is that it has a vegan/veg ingredient choice, and it’s one where I think either one would be just fine. Not an easy dish, but it’s worth the work. I give it a score of 6.5 bucks.

Apple Fritters—these were not actual apple fritters, which happen to be some of my favorite things in a donut shop, but more like dough-dipped apple spears. Strange thing is that they were not sweet enough for me and they were too much about the apple and not enough about the greasy dough. For most, I’m sure that this was a plus, but I think that I would have liked the doughnut shop version, and I think we could have pulled it off. I got to taste the fritters as they came out of the fryer, and they were certainly not bad, but they didn’t age quite as well. I’ll have to make a note that deep-fried desserts don’t work out so well within the Frugal Foodies format, but deep-frying is almost always good, so I give it a score of 5 bucks.

Overall—again, not a bad meal, and the overall score will suffer since we had a small group and only made four dishes. With this said, the meal scored 18.5 bucks, and that’s more than twice what the people paid. They did have to cook their food and then clean up afterwards—and what a lovely clean-up job they did—so who knows if they really got what they paid for. But as soon as they start making that korma again and again, the night will be one they will not soon forget. Anyways, here are the recipes…

Chickpea Soup (Leonardo da Vinci)

Adapted from Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes, by Rynn Berry

45 oz canned chickpeas
2 T flour
1 t olive oil
20 grains of crushed peppercorn
1 t cinnamon
3 pints water
2 t sage
2 t rosemary
2 t parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Drain garbanzo beans, retaining the juice, and put beans into a soup pot. Heat vigorously over medium-high heat with flour.
2. Once flour has browned slightly, add oil, peppercorn, cinnamon and water. Bring to a boil. Season with herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add in garbanzo juices if desired. Serve warm or hot.

Serves 6-8

Walnut Rissoles (Henry Salt)

Adapted from Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes, by Rynn Berry

2 oz margarine or oil
1 small spring onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
2 t marjoram and thyme
1 T all-purpose flour
½ c apple juice
½ lb grated walnuts
1 t nutritional yeast
4 oz whole-wheat bread crumbs
Corn flakes, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Melt the margarine in a saucepan. Add the onion, celery, marjoram and thyme, and fry gently. Stir in the flour, and then add the juice, yeast, walnuts, and bread crumbs. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring constantly, and then remove from heat.
2. Once the mixture has cooled, form into round shapes and roll in crushed corn flakes.
3. Bake in oven at 350 degrees or fry gently in a frying pan.

Serves 4

Vegetable Korma (Mahatma Gandhi)

Adapted from Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes, by Rynn Berry

1 c unroasted cashew nuts
½ c mashed tofu or yogurt
1 c grated coconut
¼ c water
1 c cauliflower, separated into flowerets
1 c peas, hulled
1 c string beans, cut into half inch lengths
1 c carrots, diced
1 c potatoes, peeled and diced
6 t peanut oil
6 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
4 cardamom seeds
2 c large white onions, chopped
1 t turmeric
1 t ground coriander
1 t ground cumin
2 c unpeeled tomatoes, cut into ½ inch cubes
2 t salt
Cilantro, chopped

1. Using a blender, masher, or mortar and pestle, combine the first four ingredients into a smooth paste.
2. Place all the vegetables in a heavy stockpot and barely cover with water and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Remove from heat and strain.
3. Heat the oil in the pot and sauté the spices until they start to sizzle. Add the onions and sauté until they are brown. Add the tomatoes and cook for five more minutes. Add the cashew paste, vegetables, and half of the fresh cilantro. Mix well until all the vegetables are well-coated, and heat for five minutes.
4. Remove from heat and serve with remaining cilantro.

Serves 6-8

Apple Fritters (Henry Salt)

Adapted from Famous Vegetarians and Their Favorite Recipes, by Rynn Berry

4 medium cooking apples
4 oz all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 t cream of tartar
½ C apple juice
1 t vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for deep-frying

4. Peel and core the apples and cut them into wedges about one half inch thick. Set aside.
5. In a bowl, combine the flour with the baking powder and cream of tartar. Add the apple juice and stir vigorously with a spatula. Once thoroughly mixed, add the vegetable oil.
6. Dip the apple wedges into the batter and deep-fry them until golden brown.

Serves 4

Alternately, cut the apples into smaller chunks and combine with more batter to make larger fritters.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday, September 22nd

Tonight at Frugal Foodies was all about the melons, and I think that we had five different types that we prepared. One of the challenges of a Special Guest Ingredient night, as I’ve mentioned before, is trying to have all the dishes taste sufficiently distinct as to not bore the senses. Not sure if we were up to the challenge on this front, but everyone did leave full, if not bloated. And what was nice is that all of these recipes were on the easy side, and required almost no stove time so we had a bit of extra time to make some melon art, which was a fun diversion. As for the food, many of the dishes were missing something, though I didn’t always know what it was. Here’s what we made:

Cucumber Melon Soup—this was a nice opening dish, not too sweet, not too tart, but needed a tad of something so as to not be confused with a smoothie. Someone suggested wasabe another suggested mustard, but I’m not a fan of either, so I think I might have tried cayenne or something along those lines. As is, I give it a score of 5 bucks.

Watermelon Salsa—who would think to make a salsa out of watermelon? Not me, but it’s the dish that I found the most captivating, even though it was missing something as well. In this case, I think that it could have used a bit more spice and salt, but more importantly, it could have used more time for all of the flavors to blend. But the watermelon really worked for me, and I’d suggest playing around with the recipe and coming up with something really lovely. I give it a score of 5.5 bucks.

Melon Salad with Lime and Mint—I remember this salad being much tastier when we made it a few years back. Today, it tasted under-flavored, and I’m not sure if this was due to the melons or to not enough mint or lemon/lime. But I found it disappointing, in fact the most disappointing dish of the evening. I give it a score of 2.5 bucks.

Herb-Marinated Fresh Mozzarella Wraps—another dish with a fair amount of promise that fell a little short for me. While the elements were all strong, even considering the quirky combination of fresh cheese, asparagus, olives, and cantaloupe, it needed more flavor, so I’m thinking that it could have been much much better with a more flavorful cheese like feta, or with some balsamic in the seasoning, or maybe both. As is, it was an entirely fine but forgettable dish, so it can only be scored as 4 bucks.

Casava Melon with Coconut Milk—this was our “dessert” but it was one of those dishes that didn’t seem too desserty. I added some sliced almonds to mine to give it some crunch but it was still missing something. I liked the coconut milk and the toasted coconut, but maybe it was the cassava melon that didn’t excite me. In any case, I give it a score of 3 bucks.

Overall—tonight’s menu didn’t really work for me as an overall performance, and I think that I’d only be inclined to make one of the dishes—the salsa—again. But I think that I got my fiber for the day, and it wasn’t a bad meal by any stretch. In all, a mildly disappointing 20 bucks in all, but I think that this was more about melon overkill than anything else. Now for the recipes…

Cucumber Melon Soup

Adapted from

2 cups honeydew, chopped
2 large cucumbers, chopped
8 ounces plain yogurt
2 T fresh lime juice
Freshly ground white pepper

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth.
2. Pour the mixture through a sieve to strain out any chunks of seeds and peel.
3. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
4. Cover and chill the soup for at least 30 minutes and up to 5 hours before serving.

Serves 4

Watermelon Salsa

Adapted from

3 C diced watermelon (or other melon or mix of melons)
½ C finely diced bell peppers
¼ C sliced scallions
2 T lime juice
2 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 T minced jalapenõ peppers, or to taste

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir well
2. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 6 hours before serving.
3. Stir before serving.
4. Serve with chips or as a condiment for a main course.

Makes about 4 cups

Melon Salad with Lime and Mint

Adapted from Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings, by Edward Espe Brown

½ lb melon
Juice of 1 lime
2 T white sugar or maple syrup
15 to 18 mint leaves, sliced into narrow strips (about ¼ C)

1. Cut the melon open and remove the seeds. Use a melon baler or remove the rind and cut into chunks.
2. Combine the lime juice and sugar or maple syrup, and toss it with the melon, along with a couple pinches of salt. Garnish with the mint leaves.

Serves 4-6

Herb-Marinated Fresh Mozzarella Wraps

Adapted from

¾ cup (3 ounces) diced fresh mozzarella cheese
2 T chopped fresh basil
2 T chopped pitted kalamata olives
1 T chopped fresh chives
1 T chopped fresh oregano
1 t olive oil
½ melon, sliced into spears
16 asparagus spears, steamed and chilled (about 1/4 pound)
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and chill for an hour.
Arrange 2-3 spears of melon and 4 asparagus spears on each tortilla. Spoon about 1/3 cup cheese mixture over the asparagus, and roll it up tightly.
Cut wraps at an angle and serve.

Serves 4

Casava Melon with Coconut Milk

Adapted from

8 ounces coconut milk
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
4 cups cubed casaba melon
¼ cup toasted shredded coconut
Additional lime zest for garnish (optional)

1. Mix together the coconut milk, lime juice, and zest in a large bowl until well mixed. Add the melon and toss well.
2. Chill for at least one hour, and up to three hours.
3. Garnish with the toasted coconut and lime zest and serve.

Serves 6

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Tuesday, September 8th

This week was our vegan week, and many of you may know that I fear veganism. I’d like to be vegan, seems like a good thing to do for the body and for the planet, but it just seems so hard, and not altogether tasty. Add to this the fact that we had an attendee that ate no onions or garlic, so we were basically doing Sattvic vegan dishes. In other words, lower your expectations. Here’s what we had:

Orange Carrot Sunflower Salad—I’ve been meaning to use up some sunflower seeds that were given to me, and this was a good salad for doing so. I thought that it was a pretty good salad, though a bit on the sweet side. Very orange with the carrots and oranges, and it worked as a decent side salad. Not great, don’t think that I would make it again, but I give it a score of 5 bucks.

Pistachio and Grape-Studded Quinoa Salad—this was the better of the two salads for me, and I would make it again, with a few adjustments. Quinoa is really a great grain, as it’s not only versatile, but packed full of protein. This “miracle grain” actually has the amino acid structure of milk and is one of the few non-animal products that’s a complete protein by itself. In any case, this salad combined quinoa with grapes, cucumbers, and pistachios and was quite nice. I would have replaced the grapes with currants or another dried fruit, but the grapes were nice, and I give it a score of 6 bucks.

Chickpeas with Spinach—I expected this dish to have an Indian feel to it, but it really didn’t. Not sure what kind of feel it had, as I’ve forgotten the flavor already. The dish was fine but totally forgettable, which is not a compliment for an entrée. I would have liked much more complex spicing, and then it might have been a significantly better dish. As is, I give it a score of 4 bucks.

Sesame Broccoli—this was my least favorite dish, and I’m not sure if it was more about the broccoli being a bit undercooked or about the flavoring being unflavorful. It was one of those dishes where I just had no desire to finish what was on my plate. I do think that others liked it, but I didn’t at all, so the best score that I can give this dish is 2 bucks.

Chocolate Mint Chip Cake—I’m happy to report that for the second month in a row, I’ve been happily surprised with a vegan dessert. This one was chocolaty, minty, and a very satisfying dessert that didn’t seem to suffer from its veganitude. I should say that the group preparing this dish dramatically undercooked the dish, and I’m not sure if it was more a pudding or a lava cake, but it wasn’t as the recipe maker had intended. But it was still good and I give it a score of 5.5 bucks.

Overall—like last month, not a bad meal for being vegan. I think that we had a well-balanced menu and I wasn’t hungry an hour later. In all, the total score was 22.5 bucks, and that’s not bad for being vegan, Sattvic, and all for eight dollars. Now for the recipes…

Orange Carrot Sunflower Salad

Adapted from

½ C apple juice
2 T tahini
1 T maple syrup
1 T apple cider vinegar
Pinch of cinnamon
2 C carrots, shredded
1 orange, peeled, cut into segments, and each segment cut into three pieces
1/3 C currants
¼ C sunflower seeds
¼ C freshly chopped parsley

1. In a blender or food processor, combine the apple juice, tahini, maple syrup, vinegar, and cinnamon, and process for 1 minute or until smooth and creamy.
2. In a bowl, place the remaining ingredients, pour the dressing over the top, and toss gently to combine.
3. Store in the refrigerator.

Serves 3-4

Pistachio and Grape-Studded Quinoa Salad

Adapted from

1 ½ C water
1 C apple juice
1 T ginger, minced
2 C quinoa, well rinsed
1 C English cucumber, cut into quarters lengthwise, and thinly sliced
1 C seedless red grapes, cut in half
1 C seedless white grapes, cut in half
1 C pistachios, shelled, and roughly chopped
½ C green onion, thinly sliced
¼ C parsley, chopped
3 T raspberry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 T apple juice or water
2 T olive oil
2 T toasted sesame oil
2 t unbleached cane sugar (or white sugar from sugar beets)
½ t sea salt
¼ t cinnamon
Lettuce leaves, for garnishing

1. In a medium saucepan, place the water, apple juice, and minced ginger, and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain off any excess liquid, transfer the quinoa to a bowl, fluff with a fork, and set aside to cool completely.
2. Combine the cucumber, red and white grapes, pistachios, green onions, and parsley to the cooled quinoa, and combine, tossing lightly with the cooled quinoa.
3. In a small bowl, place the remaining ingredients (except the lettuce leaves), and whisk well to combine. Pour the dressing over the quinoa mixture and toss gently to combine.
4. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
5. Serve atop lettuce leaves or in a bowl lined with the lettuce.

Serves 4 - 6

Chickpeas with Spinach

Adapted from

4 T olive oil
1 t asafetida
1 C tomato puree
3 C cooked chickpeas
1 lb spinach, steamed and chopped
1 t salt
½ t black pepper
1 t brown sugar
1 t Italian herbs
Olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley to garnish

1. Heat oil over medium heat. Briefly fry asafetida.
2. Pour in tomato puree and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Fold in chickpeas and steamed spinach. Mix in remaining seasonings. Reduce heat and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
4. Serve hot drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.

Serves 4

Sesame Broccoli

Adapted from

1 t fresh ginger, grated
1 T liquid amino acids (like Braggs)
1 T sesame oil
1 T lemon juice
2 lbs broccoli florets and stalks
1 T sesame seeds, toasted
Black pepper to taste

1. Whisk ginger, soy sauce, oil, lemon and set aside.
2. Steam broccoli until crisp and toss in ginger sauce.
3. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and pepper.

Serves 4-6

Chocolate Mint Chip Cake

Adapted from

½ C soy milk, rice milk, or other non-dairy milk of choice
½ C Mori-Nu silken style tofu, extra firm
1 C water
1 2/3 C unbleached cane sugar
1 ½ C unbleached flour
¾ C soy flour
¾ C cocoa powder
1 ½ t baking powder
1 ¼ t baking soda
1 t salt
½ C applesauce
2 t vanilla
½ t peppermint extract
1 C vegan chocolate chips

1. Lightly oil a 9x13 inch pan and set aside.
2. In a food processor or blender, place the soy milk and tofu, and blend for 1 minute. Add the water and blend an additional 30 seconds.
3. In a medium bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, soy flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the food processor and blend for 1 minute. Add the applesauce, vanilla, and peppermint extract, and blend an additional 30 seconds or more to combine. Add the chocolate chips and pulse 2-3 times to incorporate.
5. Pour into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Serves 12

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tuesday, September 1st

This night at Frugal Foodies was dedicated to wrapped foods, and there are so many of those out there that it was quite difficult to choose. So I picked a long-time favorite of mine, Aram sandwiches, a more recent favorite of mine, fresh Vietnamese-style spring rolls, and two new recipes. It was important to not confuse the wrapped food species with the stuffed food species, both because I tend to dislike the latter, and simultaneously would like to dedicate a night to that later this year. I guess that’s the kind of guy I’ve become, challenging my dislikes, hoping that with enough exposure and creativity in approach, I’ll learn to love, or at the very least, be very very comfortable with my dislike. Here’s what we had (with link to scoring code to the left of this entry):

Chinese Broccoli Wonton Soup—the group working on this dish worked efficiently. They made some of the prettiest looking wontons, and did it quite systematically. They played nice with each other and even cleaned up well after themselves. That’s why it pains me to say that this was the least edible dish I’ve had since the scoring system began. In fairness, it was a two part dish, the wontons and the broth, and I liked the broth just fine, thought that it tasted subtle and soothing, and the flavoring for me was just right for being what it was, a basic broth. But the wontons, though cooked to perfection had a filling that was more than just off. It was bad. No, it was more than bad. Was it that it had way way too much ginger? Did the chefs get too drunk and not taste their filling? Or more troubling, did they actually like it before they fed it to the masses? I really see nothing in the filling that should have led to this result, and perhaps I’ll try to make this dish myself, just to see if it was the recipe or user error. But in the end, while I’d give the broth a score of four bucks, the overall dish for me was 2 bucks.

Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls—yum! While I love most all things fried, and especially spring rolls, I think that the fresh version of these Vietnamese treats are just outstanding, and maybe possibly perhaps could even top their deep-friend brethren. There’s something about the noodles, tofu, veggies, and mint/cilantro, all wrapped together that’s quite nice, and the dipping sauce for these rolls is to die for. In fact, the dipping sauce alone might have scored a perfect 8 bucks, but the rolls were a bit too loosely rolled and so they didn’t hang together perfectly, making the eating of these a bit of a challenge. But with that said, the whole dish was really strong, and with proper rolling, could near perfection. As it was, I give this dish a score of 6.5 bucks.

Aram Sandwiches—the recipe is called something different, but I think that it’s only fair to speak about the range of Aram sandwiches that were before me, and only a small percentage were of the warm Portabella variety. I don’t think that I had ever had a warm Aram sandwich before and that was a new twist that I think has some nice potential. But I didn’t love that particular recipe, though it certainly wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t nearly as good for me as some of the others, and specifically the cream-cheese based ones, replete with sundried tomatoes, peppers, avocado, sprouts, the like. I really love Aram sandwiches and they are so easy. Pretty close to a perfect dish in terms of taste, ease, and beauty of presentation, and only scores less because the hot version was not outstanding. So, overall, I give this dish a score of 7 bucks.

Berry Roll—please note that we made a vegan version of this recipe, replacing the milk with soy milk and the butter with Earth Balance and I’ve never made the dairy version. For me, vegan desserts can be a challenge, but this is yet another one that passed the test. But can you really go wrong with assorted fresh berries lovingly rolled in dough? I think that this recipe also would have worked out pretty well with frozen berries and what would have really taken it to a whole new level was a spoon of whipped cream or ice cream. Still, it was a solid dish as is, and I give it a score of 5.5 bucks.

Overall—we had highs, we had lows, and as a whole just surpassed the twenty buck mark. This was mostly a product of us only making four dishes, and that’s because wrapped dishes take more time. Not a bad meal overall, and if we could have replaced the wonton filling with something more edible, this whole meal might have been off the charts. But as is, the overall score was 21 bucks. Now for the recipes…

Chinese Broccoli Wonton Soup

Adapted from

Wonton Ingredients
16 square wonton skins
1 T oil

1-2 t fresh ginger, minced

1 C Chinese broccoli, thinly sliced

¾ C seitan, chopped fine

½ tsp hot chili sauce, more if desired (like Sriracha)

1 t Dijon mustard

1 t tamari or soy sauce

Ginger-Soy Broth
4 C water

5-6 fresh ginger slices

1 T mirin

2 T tamari (or soy sauce)

1 ½ t sugar

2 t rice vinegar

½ t salt, plus more to taste

¼ C Chinese broccoli leaves, packed (or spinach/collards)

1. Begin by chopping the Chinese broccoli very thinly with a sharp knife, from the base of the stem up towards the leaves (just like chopping scallions).
2. Heat a large pan with oil and add the ginger. Once the ginger becomes fragrant, add the broccoli and seitan, stirring well and cooking until the broccoli is bright green and tender-crisp.
3. Transfer the broccoli-seitan mixture to a small bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust to your liking. Set aside while you make the broth.
4. Heat all of the broth ingredients together except the greens in a small sauce pan, until sugar and salt is dissolved and the ginger has had time to infuse into the broth. Taste and add more salt if desired, but remember this is a mild broth that is only meant to be a complement to the wontons. Once the broth has begun to simmer, turn off the heat and toss in greens. Cover and set aside.
5. Place 1-2 t of filling in the center of the wonton. Wet the edges of the wrapper with water (a finger dipped in water works great) and seal into a triangle, removing as much air as possible from the dumpling. Make sure edges are secured.
6. Set the triangle in front of you, pointing up. Wet one of the bottom corners. Hold the corners, one between each thumb and forefinger. Begin to bend the wrapper, as if you were forcing it into a horseshoe shape. Don’t change your grip, and resist the urge to fold the corners over. Bring the two ends together, crossing them slightly, and press to seal. Going from the triangle shape to a completed wonton is one fluid motion. Your dumpling should look like a fun little fish-boat-hat.
7. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Re-heat your broth to steaming, if necessary. Gently lower the wontons into the boiling water and cook until they become translucent, about 2-3 minutes if the wontons aren’t frozen, longer if they are. Remove them from the water with a spider (or other slotted spoon device) and place them into the hot broth.
8. Take care to remove and discard any dumplings that have opened up during cooking. If they open, water gets inside, washes all the flavor away, and you’ll be sad if you serve it or eat it. It will taste like watery mush.
9. Ladle 3-4 wontons into a bowl and add a small amount of broth, enough to half-way cover the wontons. Make sure to get some greens in there, too.
10. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls

Adapted from Heidi Winig’s Guest Chef Night at Frugal Foodies, 7/22/08

Dipping Sauce Ingredients
2 tbsp vegetable oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp chili paste
1 cup veggie stock
½ cup chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts

Filling/Wrapping Ingredients
½ lb dried rice vermicelli, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes
24 dried round rice papers
24 large soft red-leaf lettuce leaves (very soft lettuce)
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
Mint leaves
2 containers soft or medium tofu, sliced into 1 x 3 x ¼ inch pieces
Cilantro sprigs

1. To make the dipping sauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Add the hoisin sauce, sugar, chili paste and stir well and simmer for 15 seconds. Stir in the stock until the mixture has a thick, creamy consistency. Add the peanuts and let cool.
2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Drain the rice noodles and add to the boiling water. Boil until just tender, about 2 minutes. Pour the noodles into a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Drain well and set aside. Toss frequently to keep them from sticking together.
3. Make the spring rolls by laying one sheet of rice paper on a flat surface. Using a pastry brush, brush with hot water and leave it for 30 seconds until they are softened and feel like a wet tissue. Arrange 1 lettuce leaf on the lower third of the round. Add about 2 teaspoons of rice vermicelli, some carrots, and mint leaves atop the lettuce. Begin rolling from the bottom, tightly enclosing the filling with one roll to the middle of the rice paper but no further. Fold in the right and left ends, add the tofu and cilantro, and continue to roll as tightly as possible. Seal the roll with water and set aside.
4. Set the rolls on a tray and cover with a damp kitchen towel until all the rolls are done.
5. Serve with dipping sauce.

Makes 24 rolls

Portabella Aram Sandwiches

Adapted from

1 large tortilla wrap or flatbread
¾ C Gorgonzola
12 washed and dried spinach leaves
6 thin slices sautéed eggplant
1 large portabella mushroom sliced thinly and sautéed
¼ red pepper cut into strips and sautéed
1 T olive oil

1. Put gorgonzola on wrap and warm until the cheese can be easily spread over the entire wrap.
2. Place the spinach leaves flat on the cheese covering the whole wrap.
3. Do the same with the eggplant slices then add portabella and red peppers then roll very tightly.
4. Bake for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven then cut into wedges and serve.

Serves 2

Assorted Cold Aram Sandwiches

Cream cheese, softened
Tomatoes, thinly sliced
Sundried tomatoes
Cucumbers, thinly sliced
Bell peppers, thinly sliced
Cheese, thinly sliced
Avocado, thinly sliced

1. Open flatbread and sprinkle with a little water.
2. Spread a thin (1/8th inch) layer of cream cheese, hummus, or pesto on the flatbread.
3. Top this layer with other ingredients in stripes across the short length of the bread. Don’t pile vegetables on top of each other but instead make stripes of unique ingredients.
4. With one of the narrow ends in front of you, firmly roll up the flatbread, trying not to break the flatbread. Squeeze the roll gently to hold it in place and set it aside.
5. Once all the rolls are done, slice them about an inch thick using a sharp or serrated knife. Set the cut Aram sandwiches on a serving plate on their sides so that the ingredients can be viewed.

Serves ?

Berry Roll

Adapted from

2 C sifted flour
3 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 T granulated sugar
¼ C shortening
¾ C milk, more or less
2 C fresh cleaned and sliced berries
¾ C granulated sugar
1 T butter, cut in several small pieces

1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles meal. Add enough milk to make a soft dough.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to a ¼ inch thickness.
3. Spread with berries to about ½ inch of edge. Sprinkle 3/4 cup sugar evenly over the berries then dot with the butter.
4. Roll up like a jelly roll and seal ends. Place in a greased shallow baking dish.
5. Bake at 425° for 25 to 30 minutes.

Serves 8

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tuesday, August 25th

Tonight was all about the tomatoes, with the goal being to enjoy wonderful tomatoes, but not be tomatoed out by the end of the night. That's the challenge of any Special Guest Ingredient Night. Do it up just right...not too much and not too little. And I think we did better on that front tonight than at corn night 4 weeks ago. Here's what we had...

Brie and Sun Dried Tomato Crostini--this was easy and quite delightful. I love the taste of slightly melted brie, and have certainly had it on bread, but never in a crostini. And this crostini had sun dried tomatoes instead of the fresh ones, and while I think that either would have worked, this way was quite nice. A good starter to just about any party where you've got food being passed since you want to eat these hot. So hot that I give them a score of 6.5 bucks.

Gazpacho--I tend to like gazpacho but I didn't love this one. It wasn't bad but there was absolutely nothing to recommend it, besides all the fresh veggies (since that's what it's all about). I think that there was too much garlic and too much onion for my taste, and it was all a tad too finely blended. I do tend to like blended soups but it seems a shame to lose most all the texture of not only the tomatoes but cucumbers and peppers too. Sadly, I can only give it a score of 2.5 bucks.

Mothership Tomato Salad--strange name given by a strange man, Jamie Oliver, but quite a right on salad. This should not be tried with anything but the best tomatoes, and we had them straight from Jennifer Snyder's farm (thanks, Jennifer!). As such, it was a delightful dish, and so simple. Something about the tomatoes sitting salted really did the trick, and it would be super accompaniment to just about any summer meal. I give it a score of 6 bucks and it could go higher in a non-tomato-rich environment.

Creamy Polenta, Lentils, Chard, and Mushroom Ragu--this was a great dish when done at Danielle Sakamoto's Guest Chef Night nearly four years ago, but sadly less good tonight. It wasn't bad, but each element was not perfectly done. I should say that this is one of the most complex--if not the most--that we've ever done at Frugal Foodies, and the group did an outstanding job to get this beast on the table. It's a four layer operation, which each layer requiring a fair amount of pre-cooking. Bottom layer were lentils which were a tad undercooked. Next layer was chard which was cut a bit too large and not de-spined. Above that was a creamy polenta which was solidly done, and then it was all topped off by the wild mushroom ragu layer which could have used a bit less moisture and more seasoning. It is an impressive dish altogether but the taste didn't match up to the visual presentation, so I'm giving it a score of 4 bucks, but with huge upside if you're up for the challenge.

Bruno's Tomato Confit with Rice Pudding--if scores were given for the element of surprise, this one would be off the charts. A dessert with tomatoes that turn out tasting smooth, sweet, and vanilla-y? Hard to imagine, but that's what we had. The rice pudding was good, and with a bit more of something, could have been great, and the tomato confit (whatever that means) atop it was unforgettable. I really recommend trying this recipe--and the confit could be used on lots of things if you're not a fan of rice pudding--because it's just such a unique treatment of tomatoes. All in all, I give it a score of 6 bucks.

Overall--not a bad night at Frugal Foodies, and also not the best that this blog has seen. A total meal value of 25 bucks. The food seemed to be well-received by the crowd tonight, and I will say that the dishes were some of the prettiest we've had in a while, so maybe I'll post some of the pictures that people took. In the meantime, here are the recipes:

Brie & Sun Dried Tomato Crostini

Adapted from

2 T pine nuts

1 loaf baguette bread, sliced ¼ inch thick

1/3 cup Brie cheese
2 sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil), finely chopped
1 T oil

2 T Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated

1 T fresh parsley, chopped finely

1 small garlic clove, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T fresh basil, sliced

1. Place pine nuts on a baking sheet; broil 2 to 3 minutes; remove from heat; set aside.
2. On the same baking sheet, broil one side of bread slices 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Slice the brie into 1/8 inch slices and place one slice on each piece of bread. Broil in oven for 1 minute or until the brie is slightly melted.
4. In small bowl combine the tomatoes, oil, parmesan, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Spoon the tomato mixture atop the brie. Top with sliced basil and toasted pine nuts.
5. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6


Adapted from

6 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 purple onion, finely chopped

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped

1 sweet red bell pepper (or green) seeded and chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons sugar

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

6 or more drops of Tabasco sauce to taste

1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
4 cups tomato juice

1. Combine all ingredients. Blend slightly, to desired consistency.
2. Place in non-metal, non-reactive storage container, cover tightly and refrigerate, allowing flavors to blend.

Serves 8

Mothership Tomato Salad

Adapted from Jamie Oliver and the Food Network

2 ¼ lbs mixed ripe tomatoes, different shapes and colors
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A good pinch dried oregano
Red wine or balsamic vinegar
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and grated
1 fresh red chili, seeded and chopped

1. Depending on the size of your tomatoes, slice some in half, some into quarters and others into uneven chunks.
2. Put the tomatoes into a colander and season with a good pinch of sea salt. Give them a toss, season again and give a couple more tosses. The salt won't be drawn into the tomatoes; instead it will draw any excess moisture out, concentrating all the lovely flavors. Leave the tomatoes in the colander on top of a bowl to stand for around 15 minutes, then discard any juice that has come out of them.
3. Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl and sprinkle with the oregano.
4. Make a dressing using 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil, the garlic and the chili.
5. Drizzle the tomatoes with enough dressing to coat everything nicely.

Serves 4-6

Creamy Polenta, Lentils, Chard, and Mushroom Ragu

Adapted from the November, 2005 Danielle Sakamoto Guest Chef Night

This is a complex four part recipe served in layers. Not for the faint of heart.

Creamy Polenta Ingredients
9 C milk
3 C water
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
6 T butter
1 ½ T kosher salt
6 C polenta
1 C warm water for loosening polenta before ready to serve
3 T oregano, finely chopped
1 ½ T thyme leaves
1 T rosemary
4-5 oz grated Fontina cheese

Polenta Instructions
1. Combine milk, water, garlic, butter and salt in a large heavy saucepan or stockpot. Bring to a boil. Gradually add polenta, whisking until smooth. Reduce heat to low. Cook the polenta until it is creamy and thick, stirring frequently, about 35 minutes.
2. Add more milk or water if polenta is too thick.
3. Right before assembling, add water if necessary to loosen up the polenta. Add the chopped herbs and cheese. Add extra herbs and salt to taste and assemble.

Lentils Ingredients
4 cups lentils
6 large shallots, peeled and cut in half
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled, lightly smashed
½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
4 sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of kosher salt

Lentil Instructions
1. Pick over, rinse, and place in a large saucepan with water to cover by 1 ½ inches. Add the shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a boil over moderate heat, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook the lentils at a bare simmer until they are just tender but not mushy; do not allow them to boil or they will become tough, about 25-30 minutes. If necessary, replenish the water so that it stays 1 inch above the top of the lentils. Halfway through the cooking time, stir in the salt.
2. Remove from the heat and drain. Remove and discard the shallots, garlic, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves.

Chard Ingredients
7 bunches of chard,
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Olive oil

Chard Instructions
1. Stack several similar size leaves together and cut off the stems and the lower thick ribs. Now cut into thirds crosswise.
2. Rinse and leave the chard pieces wet.
3. Heat a large sauté pan with olive oil, sauté in batches until leaves are tender; add a little water if necessary to complete cooking.
4. Place cooked chard into a colander and press out excess water. Adjust the seasoning and add a little olive oil.

Wild Mushroom Ragu Ingredients
2 C boiling water
2 ½ C dried wild mushrooms
3 lb fresh wild mushrooms, such as shiitake, cremini, oyster, in any combination
1 C sun-dried tomatoes
5 t olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1+ C dry red wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ t dried thyme
2 28 oz cans Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped, with their juices
2 t of sugar
1 t kosher salt
Freshly ground black peppers
Italian parsley, chopped

Ragu Instructions
1. Pour the boiling water over the dried mushrooms and tomatoes in a bowl, cover and soak until softened, at least 15 minutes.
2. Wipe the fresh mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel. Trim off the tough stems and discard; roughly chop.
3. Combine the olive oil, onions, and garlic, sauté until translucent.
4. Meanwhile, scoop the dried mushrooms and tomatoes into a strainer, reserving the soaking liquid (strain the liquid). Rinse them under cool water to remove any grit and press them with the back of a spoon to squeeze out the water. Coarsely chop them and set aside.
5. Pour the soaking liquid into the saucepan with the onion. Add the red wine and thyme and boil for 1 minute. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring 5 minutes over moderate heat. Stir in the canned tomatoes and their juices, the chopped dried mushrooms and tomatoes, the sugar, and salt. Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are tender and the Ragu is thick, about 15 minutes.
6. Chop the fresh parsley for assembly.

Assembly Instructions
Cover the plate with a flat bed of lentils.
Take the sautéed chard leaves and make a ring in the middle of the flat bed of lentils. Place the polenta in the ring of chard.
Top the polenta with the mushroom Ragu and chopped parsley.

Serves 15-18

Vegan version of Polenta
9 cups of broth
3 cup of water
3 cloves, garlic, peeled and minced
1 ½ T kosher salt
4 C polenta
½ C warm water for loosening polenta before ready to serve
3 T marjoram or oregano, finely chopped
1 ½ T of thyme leaves
1 T rosemary

Bruno's Tomato Confit with Rice Pudding

Adapted from

6 large, ripe and firm tomatoes
2/5 lb sugar
½ cup water
1 vanilla bean
1 strip orange zest (colored part only)
1 cardamom pod, bruised
1 quart soy milk
1/6 lb sugar
Pinch salt
1 vanilla bean, split
1/3 lb short-grain white rice

1. Remove calyx from tomatoes. Cut a cross in the opposite end and plunge into boiling water for a few seconds. Lift out with a wide skimmer and plunge the tomatoes into very cold water. Drain, remove skins, quarter, and cut out the jelly and seeds to leave 4 well-shaped tomato sections from each tomato.

2. Dissolve the sugar in the water. Add the vanilla bean, orange zest and cardamom pod, and bring slowly to simmering point. Drop in the tomato quarters and keep the syrup just below simmering point for about 15 minutes. Cool for a few minutes in the syrup and then lift the tomatoes out on to a paper-lined rack resting over a plate to catch any drips.
3. Meanwhile, bring soy milk to a boil with sugar, salt and vanilla bean, then pour in the rice and stir until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until rice is completely cooked. Allow to cool somewhat.
4. Serve the tomato quarters in the centre of a plate of warm rice pudding, with a little of the tomato syrup drizzled over and around.

Serves 8-10

We've Been Yelped!

This is kind of a cool plug for Frugal Foodies...

Friends Don't Let Friends Eat Solo

August 25
This Weekly Yelp brought to you by Eat Real Festival
Pull up a chair, it's time to feast
away in the East Bay!

We've all had those moments of sublime taste bud glory, when the undeniable urge to stick a heaping forkful into any nearby mouth – just to share that foodie bliss – takes hold. Utensils take aim, 'cause this issue of the Weekly Yelpdishes on the finest communal tables and group-friendly spots this side of the water!

Name your cuisine type, and the East Bay's got it. For starters, hightail it over to Havana's "long table" and snag a seat next to Joe C for Cuban-style comestibles, like "plantain halibut and glazed pork chop." It was in the mango mojitos, though, that Maura K's liver found a new best friend. Can anyone say "half-priced Mojito Mondays" en Español?! In Temescal, tap into tapas with a lively, neighborly meal atBarlata. Katie C had no shame tracking down the server trailing aromas of garlic shrimp to secure a sizzling serving for her table. Atta girl Katie, sharing is caring!

Take a peek over Nique F's shoulder at A Cote in Oakland, and you'll see a big Mediterranean bowl of "little orange steaks swelling in their purple shells," aka mussels that "will change your life! Make friends at the bar, sit at a community table, or get your own private nook" and slurp away! Or, get your grill on a la Frank L at K-BBQ institution, Ohgane;nothing promotes group bonding like hot meat and beer, right? Well, maybe faith, which brings folks from far and wide to gather together at Fremont's Buddhanusorn Temple on Sundays. There, Kati H watches traditional dance, visits with monks collecting alms and devours the best pad thai in all the land: "They make it fresh in front of you!" Omm, nom, nom...

Leave it to Berkely to stir up that sense of community withFrugal Foodies, an organization that invites people in various homes around the city to rub elbows in the kitchen and create elaborate meals centered around one ingredient all for eight bucks! Kathleen W's description says it all: "This is what Iron Chef would be like... but with a lot more wine." Now that's a surefire way to make new buddies! Indeed, "drinking lubricates conversation," declares Melissa B, three bubblies in at gorgeous, new Lake Merritt hot spot, Lake Chalet. Two-sided community bar? That's just double the trouble!

Looking to get your group on? Check out Talk!
(A Word from Our Sponsor)Celebrate delicious, local food...

Eat Real Festival puts the spotlight on Bay Area street food August 28th-30th

The Eat Real Festival is a free, three-day celebration of delicious food taking place in Oakland’s historic Jack London Square. Buy from your favorite street food vendors, pick up a ticket for the Beer Shed and sample from among the 30-something microbrews, or shop for local produce and artisanal snacks. In between the good eats, enjoy chef demonstrations, bands, films, food competitions, and more, for free. Proceeds from the event benefit People’s Grocery, La Cocina and Community Alliance with Family Farmers.

The Eat Real Festival: putting the food back in fast!

Top Yelpers

See who's been mouthing off this week!

user photo

Wilson C.
Be satisfied with your opinions and…
user photo

Kirsten L.
Who brought the dessert?
user photo

troy m.
user photo

Alex D.
user photo

Deana I.
Cupcakes make people happy!

Picks of the Week

Reviews we liked this week.
user photo
Maggie H. on Camino
"I am just charmed by Camino.

I live in the neighborhood and am so glad to have such a treasure close by.

The inside is gorgeous. Sitting opposite someone at one of the large redwood tree tables is a *bit* far, so it isn't the most intimate experience, but the communal tables can make for some…"
user photo
yuriko b. on Little Sheep Hot Pot
"I never thought soup could be so good! Besides the fact that this place smells like straight up spices and 99 Ranch, it's pretty good, anyways, it clears up your sinuses! Both the original and spicy soup bases are good, however, I prefer the extra kick so the spicy base is just perfect. There's a…"
user photo
Max A. on Cafe Colucci
"Mmmmmmm, I could eat at this place every week and be happy for a long, long time.

I am sadly allergic to tomatoes, so the number of vegetarian items I can eat from the vegetarian menu here is pretty small. However, everything I've tried: buticha, meat combo, and kitfo are all excellent. There are…"

Fresh Lists

The newest of our users' favorites.
user photo
A Big Helping of Family Yelping
"A list of experiences I have had with my folks (Toni M. and Alan L.) ...This family who eats together, Yelps together!"
user photo
good for groups*
"what can i say? i like eating with friends!

* group = 6 people minimum"
user photo
Dining Family Style
"Places with the ambiance to celebrate life with the community you belong to."
user photo
Good for Groups
"Places to go if you are dining with 6 or more friends."
user photo
Good for Groups
"Places that will accommodate your posse!"

Community Blog | Yelp Blog | Weekly Yelp Archive | Feedback