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.

Bless Yer Heart

This post is dedicated to the memory of Carol Ann, a beloved friend whose life was taken many many years too early. Carol Ann lived in a very small town in North Carolina. Although I didn’t get to spend much time with her, I knew her to be a special person, full of love, kindness, and generosity. And although she had never left the south before, she was excited to embark on adventures. She came to California for an adventure – to San Francisco, no less – and was open to everything. She took on all new experiences with a smile.

When I first met her, in her own habitat, so to speak, she was warm and funny. And had no problem mocking the vegan food I was about to feed her. I had prepared vegan paella. I’m guessing she had never had non-vegan paella. She loved it. And I told her about the oatmeal I’d been making for my family for close to twenty years. She didn’t like oatmeal – I don’t know how that’s possible – but she liked how “healthy” this sounded, and the fact that she could make a big batch of it at the beginning of the week, and take servings of it to work. So I gave her the recipe, and she loved it, and ate it all the time.

If you make this, you’ll get lots of benefits in addition to the main one, which is that it tastes so good. You already know that plain old oatmeal is good for you, but this comes with two extra whole grains. And if you intend to make it regularly, chances are it’ll add at least one whole grain to your pantry, bulgur, which is quick cooking and delicious. You’re welcome!

So when you’ve reheated a bowl of this in the office microwave, making your co-workers drool from the cinnamony smell of home-cooking, think of Carol Ann, twinkle in her eye, smiling.

Best oatmeal ever

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup bulgur
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/4 cup raisins (golden is extra yummy)
  • 1 heaping tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp molasses, optional

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 qt of water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium and add the oats and bulgur. While whisking constantly, stream in the cornmeal until completely mixed in. Thinly slice the banana into the pot, add the raisins, cinnamon, salt, and molasses, if using. Mix well, turn the heat to medium low, and simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Cover the pot, remove from the heat, and let sit for 7 more minutes. Serve with (home-made) brown sugar or maple syrup, some toasted chopped nuts of your choice, and some dried blueberries like Daniel Tiger.

Makes 3 – 4 servings

The best things in life are cake

Pardon me for waxing philosophical here, but as a lady of a certain age, I have come to realize that one does not escape one’s ancestry.  Life is beautiful and rich when you embrace your past and cut your own path with your people at your back.  For me, that means this coffee cake.  When I took my first bite, I felt like I was 80 years old.  In a good way.  You get yourself a steaming cup of coffee or black tea (okay, or rooiboos – whatever your pleasure), you kick your feet up (everyone has to do it once in a while), you schnuggle under the afghan your grandmother crocheted you, and you eat a nice piece of cake.  Revel, rejoice in the simplicity of it.
I suppose first, you must make the coffee cake.  Fortunately, this one is quite simple.
(Adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe for Polish babka)
Ashkenazic coffee cake
  • 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk, lukewarm (microwave for 45 seconds if cold from the fridge)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce, heated in the microwave for about 30 seconds
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine stick (I prefer Nucoa for baking)
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup white or golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup currants

Syrup

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple juice

Icing

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp vanilla almond milk

Place the cake ingredients, except for the fruit, in the bowl of a standing mixer or in a large bowl and mix until the ingredients are well combined.  If using a standing mixer or hand beater, mix on medium for about 2 minutes.  Add the fruit, and mix on low until combined.  Cover your bowl, and let the cake batter rest for an hour.  Don’t worry, it’s really fermenting more than rising or anything else.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and then pour the batter into a bundt pan sprayed with cooking spray, cover, and let rest for 30 more minutes.  Uncover, and bake for 30 minutes until a thermometer reads 190 degrees or until it’s light on top and golden on the sides.

While the babka is baking, put the syrup ingredients into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Whisk occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is clear.  Set aside.

Remove the cake from the oven, gently poke it with a fork all over, then pour the syrup over the cake.  It may seem like a lot, but it’s what makes this cake so moist!  After about 20 minutes, loosen the cake from the pan, and carefully turn it out onto a plate.

Place the icing ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.  Once the cake is completely cooled, drizzle the icing over the top.

Carob waffles for dinner

Full disclosure: this is not, by any stretch, an original recipe. It’s a heavily modified recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s book Veganomicon. The original recipe is for chocolate chip brownie waffles, which is what my daughter asked me to make for dinner. Well, I’ve cut down on my chocolate consumption, so in order to make only one thing for dinner, I replaced the chocolate chips and cocoa with carob chips and carob powder. I LOVE carob. I really do. Regardless, these waffles are total decadence. Don’t think that just because you’re using carob and whole wheat that these are healthy. Go eat a carrot, if that’s what you’re looking for. A girl’s gotta have fun every now and again.

Carob waffles

  • 2 cups (10 oz) white whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup carob powder
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 1 3/4 cup vanilla flavored unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 very ripe mashed banana (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup carob chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat your waffle iron. Whisk the flour, carob powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl until completely combined. In a medium bowl, whisk the almond milk, water, banana, coconut oil, sugar, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and whisk until just combined. Fold in the carob chips and pecans.

Pour about 1/3 cup of batter into each quadrant of your waffle iron, and bake until your waffle iron tells you it’s ready.

Makes 3 4-square waffles.

Middle Eastern tomato stew with creamy tofu

I had one small ball of pizza dough in the fridge that needed to get used. I have a family of five to feed, and one small vegan pizza wouldn’t cut it. Didn’t want to make pasta (with pizza?). And I’ve been craving shakshouka, the delicious Israeli stew of tomatoes and red bell peppers, rich with olive oil, served with a poached egg on top.

And so this simple stew was born.

Middle Eastern tomato stew with creamy tofu

  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 8 oz green beans, chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • 1 lb firm tofu, sliced into 1″ squares/1/4″ thick
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped
  • Salt to taste

Heat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add 1/4 cup oil, and when hot, add the green beans. Let fry, stirring often, for about three minutes, then add the red onion. Fry until the green beans are blistered and the onion is browned, about three more minutes. Remove the green beans and onion to a bowl and set aside. Add the rest of the oil and the tofu to the pan. Be patient. Don’t touch the tofu until it comes up easily from the pan. Then flip it with a thin metal spatula and brown it on the other side. Once it’s good and brown, turn the heat down to medium, and add the wine to deglaze the pan. Add the rest of the ingredients and the green beans and onion. Stir well to coat everything in the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and turn the heat to medium-low. Let simmer for about ten to fifteen minutes, until the sauce is reduced and thick.

Enjoy with focaccia, roasted potatoes, rice or another grain, or just a spoon. Delicious!

Pain perdu tropical, No Knead Whole Wheat Sourdough, Brown Sugar

Whatever.  I’m not really so fancy-pants as all that.  I did make French toast for dinner tonight that tasted of somewhere I’ve never been.  And it was GOOD.

I will say this.  You could make this *more* tropical.  I used rice milk as the main liquid in my batter, because I thought it was already going to be on the thicker side, but next time, I think I would use coconut milk and thin it with some pineapple juice.  You could also add shredded coconut to the batter.  They tasted so good, though, that I would say those would enhance, but this French toast is already yummy.

Pain perdu tropical

  • 7 slices whole wheat sourdough (recipe follows)
  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar (recipe follows)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup rice milk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour

Preheat a large cast iron pan over medium heat.  Mash the banana with a fork in a large bowl.  Add the brown sugar to macerate and make the banana break down a little easier.  Add the extracts, rice milk, olive oil, and nutmeg, and stir and mash until pureed.  Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon.  Dunk your slices of bread in the batter until well coated.

Spray the skillet with cooking spray, and place the battered bread into the pan.  Let brown on each side, then set aside.  Serve with maple syrup.  Duh.

 

No-Knead Whole wheat sourdough

I make this bread at least once a week, sometimes twice.  It is so good and SO FREAKING EASY.  You need the simple ingredients, a bowl, and a wooden spoon.  That’s IT.

  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 2/3 cups cool water
  • Extra flour for preventing sticking

Place the flours, salt, and yeast in a large bowl and whisk to combine.  Add the cool water, and stir with a wooden spoon. When the dough is moist and well mixed, place in a large oiled bowl, cover, and place in a warm place for 12 to 18 hours.  Remove the towel, Generously flour a board and dump the dough on top of it.  Generously dust the top of the bread with more flour, then fold over several times.  Cover and let rise another 2 hours.  Preheat the oven and a Dutch oven with a lid to 450 degrees for a half hour.  Dump dough into the preheated Dutch oven, cover, and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove lid and bake for another 10 to 15, until crust in golden brown.  Let cool completely before slicing or monkeys will fly out of your behind.

 

Brown Sugar

Okay, it’s super lame that I’m posting this recipe, but most people have never made their own brown sugar, and I’m telling you.  IT IS HIGHLY SUPERIOR to the store bought stuff.

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp blackstrap molasses

Put ingredients into a large bowl and stir for about 5 minutes or so until the molasses is completely integrated into the sugar.  Store in an airtight container.  Enjoy.

 

Mole picadillo burritos – the horse I rode in on

First let me begin with the menus of the week. For client #1, I made a green salad topped with lentils and nectarines, pickled red onions, and a seriously delicious creamy Dijon dressing with a couple of thick slices of my whole wheat sourdough; curried vegetables and chickpeas over black quinoa; Sephardi meatballs with cabbage and barley; chipotle macaroni and cheese with OMG roasted Brussels sprouts; and my world famous (in my own mind) mole picadillo burritos. For client #2, by request, I made mole picadillo burritos; roasted broccoli; salad greens with a pomegranate vinaigrette; and a chilled cantaloupe bisque. Everything was yummy. Other than the aforementioned burritos, I think my favorite item was the Dijon dressing. I know. It’s salad dressing. It was FINGER-LICKING GOOD. Really.

I have been making these burritos for…I dunno…17 years? They’ve only gotten better. As with any good burrito, the ingredients list is completely flexible, and lends itself to repurposed left-overs. But this is generally what they look like. If you want to beef up the vegetable content, you can add fresh spinach or kale at the end to wilt it. Seriously, I would stake my reputation as a maker of yummy things on this burrito. It is SO yummy.

Mole picadillo burritos

  • 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 1 lb pkg super firm tofu, diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 lrg onion, chopped
  • 1 lrg red pepper, chopped
  • 1 apple, preferably Granny Smith, but any will do, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 – 3 chipotles in adobo, per taste, minced
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Salt to taste
  • 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen roasted corn
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 8 (whole wheat, my preference) flour tortillas
  • Toppings: sliced avocado, pickled jalapenos and carrots, cholula

Preheat a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the tofu, and saute until golden on most sides. Add the onions, then the bell peppers, stirring often, until the onions are softened. Add the rest of the ingredients (stopping short of the tortillas, yo) in order, stirring fairly constantly. The water should make a nice sauce.

Heat a medium cast iron pan over medium heat. Toast tortillas in the dry pan, one at a time. Toast on one side, flip over, and then pile about a third cup of filling into the middle of the tortilla, add toppings, then remove to a plate to cool long enough so you don’t burn your fingers folding it into a burrito.

Enjoy!