Plato’s peanut butter noodles

There are certain meals that are sure-bets when feeding my family. Often, they include pasta. Fortunately, this one also includes broccoli and tofu, and is so delicious, everyone will love it, and you won’t get tired of it. It’s peanut butter noodles. I’ve been futzing with the recipe for a long time, trying different recipes to see which one I like best. Well, I’ve finally made the one, the Platonic ideal of peanut butter noodles, if you will. It tastes like satay, and it is delicious. I have a little bit of sauce left over, so I guess I’m going to have to make tofu satay! Bummer.

This is a recipe specifically for my kids, so it’s not very spicy. When my husband and I eat it, we add plenty of sriracha, which is highly recommended, but you could also use hot curry powder instead of regular curry powder or add cayenne to the sauce mix. Also, we all love what happens to broccoli when it’s roasted, so I take that step here, but you could just as easily add it to the pan. It’s so easy to roast, though, and if you fry the broccoli in the pan, you still should/have to remove the tofu from the pan in order to get the broccoli the direct contact with the pan that it deserves. Do it however you like, though.

Peanut butter noodles with tofu and broccoli

  • 1 head of broccoli, broken and chopped into small florets
  • 1 – 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 lb whole wheat pasta (spaghetti or other shape)
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 lb extra-firm tofu, cubed into 1/2″ dice
  • 13 oz can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I use natural peanut butter with nothing added to it, except salt, I don’t know what this would be like with Jif)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp agave
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Chopped roasted peanuts for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil (makes clean-up easy), and spray with cooking spray. Place the broccoli florets on the foil, pour the olive oil over it and add the salt. Toss with your hands until all the florets have a light coating of the oil. Roast for about 18 to 20 minutes, stirring and tossing about half-way through cooking time.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. My husband likes spaghetti, but it’s messy for the kids, so I break it into smaller pieces.

Heat a large cast iron pan over slightly lower than medium-high heat. Add the canola oil. When the oil is hot, add the tofu and then leave it aloneIf you try to move it before the tofu is properly caramelized, you’ll lose the crispy skin to the pan. When it lifts fairly easily, after a good 8 to 10 minutes, toss it around in the pan to caramelize it on another side.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, agave, tamarind paste, curry powder, salt, ginger, and coriander, and place the saucepan over medium heat. Stir often to incorporate the peanut butter and to ensure that it doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan. When the sauce starts to simmer and bubble, it’s ready to serve.

In a large bowl, toss together the drained pasta, the broccoli, the tofu, and the sauce until thoroughly combined. Serve with plenty of sriracha and chopped peanuts, if you want to be fancy.

Serves a family of five (with three small kids)

Fake lahmacun

Fake lahmacun

I have mentioned before that I am a member of a bread makers’ group on Facebook. I know. Whatever. Who cares? This is a group, though, of amazing people from all around the world, and I am inspired by so many of them numerous times a day. So last week, a friend posted that he’d made a Turkish kind of pizza called lahmacun, and several of us nerded out on the subject. At the time, I was baking lemon thyme pitas for my client, had just roasted an eggplant and some peppers, and had some cooked chickpeas out. So of courseI made myself some lahmacun.

I swear.  I moaned with EVERY BITE.

Lemon thyme pitas

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 tbsp instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Zest of half of a lemon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme


Place flour, yeast, sugar, water, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer, and mix on low for 3 minutes. Increase speed to medium, and mix for another 5 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray, then spray the top of the dough, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours, but give it whatever time it needs!

Uncover, add the zest and thyme, and knead on low speed for about 3 to 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°. Pull off little chunks of dough, about the size of a golf ball, roll in flour, then roll out each ball to a thin disk. Place each disk on a cookie sheet coveted in foil and sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 3 minutes on the lowest rack of the oven, then gently flip over and bake for another 3 minutes.

I made 21 pitas!

Lahmacun for one

  • olive oil for drizzling
  • zaatar, to taste
  • 1/4 cup cooked chickpeas, mashed with a potato masher
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced roasted eggplant*
  • 1/4 cup diced roasted pepper**
  • kosher salt, to taste

Preheat the broiler and make sure the rack is as close to the top of the oven as possible. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, and place your pita on top. Drizzle a little olive oil over the pita, then sprinkle on the zaatar, mashed chickpeas, garlic, eggplant, roasted pepper, and salt.  Drizzle a little more olive oil on, then place under the broiler for just a few minutes, watching closely. Slice into wedges or don’t and get a messy face. The choice is yours. I don’t judge.

*How to roast eggplant – Dice the eggplant into small cubes, about 1/2″ dice, no need to peel. Place the eggplant on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray, drizzle with a little olive oil, and toss with your hands. Place under a preheated broiler for about 8 minutes, then flip. Broil until well browned, but not burned. Test with a fork: it should be soft.

**How to roast peppers – If you like roasted peppers, you will never buy them in a jar again. This is so easy and so delicious. Preheat your broiler and place the rack on the second level below the top of the oven. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on your cookie sheet, and spray with cooking spray. Place your washed peppers (I do 6 at a time) on your cookie sheet, and broil for about 25 minutes, turning about every 5 to 7 minutes, until charred on all sides. Remove from the oven, wrap the peppers tightly with the aluminum foil on which they’re sitting, and let steam for about 20 minutes or so, until cool enough to handle. Peel the charred skins off as well as you can, but don’t worry about getting it all off. If you do it under running water, it’s easier, but not necessary.

Every [scrap] is sacred, every [scrap] is great…

On nights when I want to serve an elegant dinner to my family – perhaps for Shabbat – I make a meal that is also one of the simplest and fastest to make: tofu steaks, sauteed green beans with garlic, and some kind of potato, generally mashed or roasted. As my children get bigger, one pound of tofu is no longer enough for all of us. A few days ago, I made our favorite elegant meal, this time, the potatoes were mashed.  I made more mashed potatoes than I thought we’d eat, because I’d wanted to use them in a bread (soft potato bread, anyone?). Well, I also made 2 pounds of tofu, which is definitely more tofu than the five of us are going to eat in one dinner, and I made more green beans than I needed, too, who knows why. So what do leftover vegetables, leftover protein, and leftover mashed potatoes make? Why, shepherd’s pie, of course! I also had an abundance of mushroomy items in my fridge, and I was just in the mood for a mushroomy flavor, so I used all of them.

I’ve said it before. I love leftovers. I especially love repurposing leftovers. To me, there’s nothing like taking something that was already great, and making something completely different and still great out of it! I also am a BIG fan of not wasting food. And I’m a fan of feeding my family things they love. So this shepherd’s pie is a win-win all over the place.

Mushroomy shepherd’s pie

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 – 16 oz tofu, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh, frozen, or already cooked green beans (if fresh, blanch first)
  • 1 tbsp mushroom flavored or regular soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/4 cups mushroom or vegetable stock
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 cups mashed potatoes
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray an 8×8″ casserole with cooking spray. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan, and if using fresh (not leftover) tofu, saute tofu until golden.  If using leftover tofu, add onions to the pan first, and saute until translucent. Add garlic and mushrooms, and saute until the mushrooms have released their liquid and are soft. Add green beans and tofu, if using leftover tofu, and saute until the green beans are soft. Add soy sauce, sage, and thyme, and saute until everything is coated in the syrupy soy sauce. Add the peas to the pan.

Combine the flour and stock in a bowl, and whisk until no lumps appear. Add the stock to pan, and stir long enough to thicken and coat everything. Taste for salt. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole, and top with the mashed potatoes, making a crust.  Sprinkle on the smoked paprika. Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Enjoy!

It usually starts with bread

Butter rolls and coconut jam

I recently joined a bread bakers’ group on Facebook, and have learned a tremendous amount from the global community that participates. There are people from almost every continent and every region in the world. And the camaraderie, encouragement, and connection in the group is pure magic.

My friend Grace recently posted a beautiful picture of butter rolls: shiny, golden – and you can tell – soft. The thread that followed described southeast Asian cafe culture – the coffee shops are called kopi tiams – and the typical foods eaten at them. Curries with soft buttery rolls. Coconut jam. Lots of eggy things. It all sounded so delicious. And so veganizable.

I created this curry based on a chicken and potato curry stuffing for buns I found, but changed it to be vegan, obviously, and to be eaten in a bowl, rather than stuffed into bread.  You could just eat it over rice or with any kind of bread.  It has a lot of depth and great texture, if I do say so myself.

Indonesian cafe curry

  • 2 tbsp peanut oil, plus more as needed
  • 8 oz pkg tempeh, cubed
  • 8 curry leaves, optional
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 12 oz red skinned potatoes, diced
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup veg stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Place a large cast iron pan over slightly hotter than medium heat. Add the peanut oil, then add the tempeh, and saute until browned. Add the curry leaves, if using, and onions, stirring and sauteing until translucent. Add the garlic, and saute for another minute. Place the spices in a small bowl and add about a tablespoon of water to make a paste, stirring well. Push the contents of the pan aside to make a little room for the curry paste, and add the curry paste to the pan to get some direct pan contact for it, sort of toasting/frying it. Then mix the paste up with the rest of the pan’s contents. Add the potatoes, carrots, and veg stock, stirring well. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn the heat to medium-low, and cover. Let simmer for about 10 or 15 minutes, when potatoes and carrots are tender. Add the peas to the pan, increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until heated through. Serve with soft rolls and coconut jam (recipes below).

Vegan butter rolls (adapted from Grace Chang’s recipe and method)

  • 250 grams bread flour
  • 250 grams white whole wheat flour
  • 15 grams dry soy milk powder
  • 10 grams instant yeast
  • 75 grams sugar
  • 8 grams salt
  • 150 grams plain coconut milk yogurt
  • 250 grams cold water
Place all of the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the dough hook, mix for one minute on low speed. Add the yogurt and water and mix on low for about five minutes. Turn the speed to medium, and mix for another 7 or 8 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and spread a little oil over the top. Let it rise for about an hour or two until doubled in bulk. Divide the dough into 40-gram pieces, and shape into balls. Let the dough rest on a floured board for about 15 minutes, then place in 9×13″ pan, cover, and let rise for another hour, until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to about 390 degrees. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown, and then let cool on a wire rack.

Coconut jam – Philipino style

  • 1 13-oz can coconut cream
  • 1 13-oz can coconut milk
  • 8 oz brown sugar
  • Good pinch of kosher salt

Place ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to medium-low, and let simmer, stirring regularly, until the color is a dark chocolate brown, 2 to 3 hours. Spread on “butter” rolls.

Make this meal.

This is not an entirely original recipe.  The crepes are from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  The zucchini wine sauce is from a recipe I got verbally from a friend close to 20 years ago, made it once, and never made it again, and a version of it can be found (elsewhere) on the internet, normally used as a pasta sauce.  That’s what I used it for 20 years ago.  But THIS.  This is SO good.  You could also eat the sauce as a soup, because that’s what I did as soon as I put as much as I could into my clients’ container.  It is delicious.  And, well, the fillings are pretty ordinary.  Except that this meal is awesome.  This is truly a case of the sum being greater than its parts.

Also, this meal is a little labor intensive.  It involves a lot of pans and time.  But sometimes it’s just what you have to do for a satisfying and maybe a little unusual vegan meal.  I think it’s worth it.

Buckwheat crepes filled with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, and roasted butternut squash, drizzled with zucchini wine sauce

Buckwheat crepes

  • 1 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp non-dairy milk
  • 1/4 water
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into a container, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.  When ready to use, whisk the ingredients again in case they’ve separated.

Heat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat.  Once hot, spray generously with cooking spray.  Ladle about a 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan and immediately swirl the pan so that batter spreads out thinly.  When the top of the crepe is dry and there are some holes in it, VERY CAREFULLY flip it over with a thin metal spatula.  The first one will often be for the chef.  Don’t be discouraged.  Just fry the next one, and really make sure it’s dry on top before you touch it!  Fry on the second side for about 30 seconds, then remove from the pan and place on a plate.  Continue until you’ve used all of the batter.  You should get 8 to 10 crepes.

Fillings

  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced small
  • Lots of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup white wine
  • Herb of your choice or none (I like tarragon or sage on the squash)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray, place the butternut squash on top, drizzle with olive oil and an herb of your choice and roast for about 30 minutes, stirring after about 20 minutes.  Check for doneness and roasty color after 30, and probably roast for another 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt (try truffle salt if you can get it – I got mine at Trader Joe’s).

Meanwhile, heat two cast iron pans over medium-high heat.  Add about 2 tbsp olive oil to each, and place the onions in one and the mushrooms in the other.  Caramelize the onions for about 5 minutes until they start to brown, then turn the heat to medium-low, and saute, stirring occasionally, for about 25 to 30 minutes or more, depending on how dark you like them.  Salt to taste.

In the other pan, toss the mushrooms regularly until they’re browned and have started to stick to the pan.  Add the wine to deglaze the pan, and turn off the heat once much of the liquid has evaporated.  Sprinkle with salt and transfer the mushrooms from the pan to a plate, and set aside.

Zucchini wine sauce

  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 large zucchini, grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup good veg stock
  • Salt to taste

Heat a large cast iron pan (the one you sauteed the mushrooms in would be good – that’s why I told you to transfer them to a plate!) over medium-high heat.  Once hot, add the olive oil, swirling to coat your pan.  Add the grated zucchini and saute for about 10 minutes until they’ve started to caramelize.  Add the wine and the veg stock, and turn the heat to medium, and let saute for about 20 minutes until well cooked, and pretty melty and mushy.  Put the contents of the pan in a food processor and puree until smooth.  Salt to taste.

Serve a crepe (if you need to reheat, toast in a dry pan until warmed through) with a choice of fillings with the zucchini wine sauce drizzled on top.

Chili con frijoles

I haven’t always been vegan. I’m certainly a better vegan cook than I ever was when I cooked with meat. Nonetheless, there were a few meat meals I made very well, most of which I’ve successfully and satisfactorily veganized; however, one dish remains: chili.

I’ve tried all the usual suspects. The tempeh, the highly processed veggie crumbles, mushrooms…. It’s not about texture for me, so seitan and tofu wouldn’t do. Chili made with ground beef has a dark, rich depth of flavor that I have not been able to master without the beef. But this chili is very good. Absolutely good enough to share with you. And I have more tricks up my sleeve that I’m going to try next.

One disclaimer: I am a native Californian. Chili in California most often has vegetables in it, and definitely has beans in it, even when it’s made with meat. When I was a kid, I remember seeing a can of chili con carne “without beans” on the shelf of a grocery store, and asking, “No beans? What’s in the can??”

Chili con frijoles

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • *2 frozen veggie burger patties, diced (optional)
  • 2 generous tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 28-oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups cooked navy beans
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, roasted (from Trader Joe’s, if you’ve got it)
  • Salt to taste

Preheat a cast iron Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil. Once the oil is shiny, add the onion, and let saute for about five minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients in order, chopping the whole tomatoes with your spoon,

Chili and fixings

Chili and fixings

stir well, bring to a boil, and then turn to low. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Serve with fried onions, Tabasco, and corn bread.

*I used Don Lee veggie burgers from Costco, which are made of quinoa and veggies, and are good quality without many weird ingredients.

Gratin of my dreams

I have an Aunt Carol who is fabulous. Truth be told, she’s my step aunt, but I’ve known her as long as I can remember, and she’s so awesome, I can’t not claim her. If my memory serves me correctly, in the early ’70s, she and her equally fabulous husband first moved to Bern, Switzerland, producer of – in my opinion – the world’s best chocolate, where they taught, sang, and accompanied opera. Then, they moved to northern Germany (#2 in chocolate, but it’s a close second), where they continue to live, teach, sing, and breathe opera today.

Now, as I said, Aunt Carol is fabulous, so being fabulous, she has to study and become fluent in Greek after the age of, like, 65. Well, she lives in Germany, which is about 5 minutes from Greece, and lucky me, she’s not vegan, but allergic to dairy, so I am the happiest beneficiary of her notes about Greek peasant food that she eats or actually participates in making. I live vicariously.

Based on Aunt Carol’s descriptions, I’ve added freshly grated turmeric to mashed or roasted potatoes, and improvised a pumpkin pie surrounded in phyllo, which always gets comments like, “Mmmm, it’s like baklava!” Tonight, based on her rough description of a casserole, I came up with this absolutely DELICIOUS gratin. I don’t know how much it tasted like the one Aunt Carol ate on her last trip to Greece, but I assure you, it made me swoon.

Greek eggplant and potato gratin

  • 1 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 lrg eggplant, thinly sliced cross-wise, about 1/4″ thick
  • 6 red-skin potatoes, sliced about 1/4″ thick
  • 1 14-oz can tomato sauce
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • Coarse salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°. Spray a 9×13″ casserole pan with cooking spray. Heat a large cast iron pan over a little lower than medium-high heat. Add about 1/4 cup of oil to the pan, and fry the eggplant slices in batches, adding oil as needed, until golden or a little darker. Place the tomato sauce, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a bowl, and whisk to combine. Pour about a third of the tomato sauce into the bottom of the casserole pan, layer on half of the potato slices, half of the eggplant, one-third of the tomato sauce, the other half of the potatoes and eggplant, the onion slices, and the last third of sauce. Drizzle on whatever is left of the olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about an hour. Test the potato for doneness by poking it with a sharp knife. If it’s soft, uncover the gratin, and bake for another ten or fifteen minutes until bubbling. Generously sprinkle on the coarse salt (Maldon is my preference), and serve.