Repurposed scraps (aka, lunch!)

My kids had eaten, and despite having gone grocery shopping yesterday, I have nothing in my fridge. I don’t want another sandwich, because I had peanut butter and banana on toast for breakfast. I’m bored. What’s for lunch?

Well, more than making everything from scratch most of the time, I’m also a huge fan of repurposing left-overs and scrounging scraps together to make something yummy and healthy in no time flat. The key for this concoction is that I had a cooked grain waiting to be used in my freezer. Without that, I would’ve had to resort to a tortilla or bread. Another important factor is knowing how truly variable this so-called recipe is. Today, I had a sausage, a red bell pepper, and 3 scallions in the fridge, and turmeric barley in my freezer. You could do this with any kind of onion (and/or garlic), most any kind of vegetable (e.g., summer squash, green beans, shredded cabbage, broccoli/cauliflower/Brussels sprouts, even handfuls of spinach or a few kale or chard leaves), any source of (vegan, ahem) protein (beans, cubed tofu, whatever),  a grain, and SIMPLE flavoring. Did you hear that, Mom? Keep it simple. I made a sort of Mediterranean dish, but you could swap out the za’atar and balsamic for some cumin and oregano and a splash of red wine vinegar or lime juice, and call it Mexican, or a pinch of curry and ginger, and call it Indian. Simple. This is a kind of stir-fry, but I don’t always want a Chinese flavored stir-fry. So, here you go. My afternoon masterpiece.

Mediterranean sausage over turmeric barley

  • Frozen cooked turmeric barley
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 vegan Italian sausage, quartered lengthwise and chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • Splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp za’atar
  • Kosher salt to taste

Defrost and heat the barley in the microwave, about five minutes. Heat a medium cast iron pan over medium to medium-high heat. Add olive oil, then add the sausage until starting to turn golden. Add the bell pepper until softened, then add the scallions. Let cook for another minute, then add the balsamic, za’atar, and the salt. Serve over barley. Enjoy!

Serves one in about 10 minutes’ time.

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!

If I had a hammer

Coconut tools

It happens frequently that I make a meal for a client of which I’m particularly proud. I enjoy creating dishes, but what I really love is pulling recipes together – whether they be my own or someone else’s – to make a meal that turns into something magical. This week, that meal was inspired by the works of Madhur Jaffrey. Close to 2 decades ago, a friend gave me his used copy of World of the East Vegetarian Cooking. I’ve used it some. Not as much as I’d like. For various reasons. Since I started my work as a personal chef, I’ve used it a few times, because my first client has an adventurous palate and likes lots of vegetables. Still, I find that I often don’t end up using the cookbook, even when I’ve pulled it out.

My newest client has some particular dietary requirements necessitating meals low in carbohydrates and kid-friendly. And the family has requested a rotation of various cuisines, including Indian. And so, enter Madhur Jaffrey.

My favorite Indian dish – and the one I’ve been pining for for two years since going vegan – is saag paneer. I don’t know why it took me so damn long to veganize it. I made it three times in two days for three different clients, all with different needs. This is the Platonic ideal of vegan saag paneer. But don’t miss the sides of this meal. The salad – in which the above coconut makes its appearance – is OUTSTANDING and well worth the tools and manual labor (just for the coconut; the rest of the salad is SUPER easy and fast).

Saag paneer, turmeric-scented quinoa, sesame green beans, and Gujarati cucumber and peanut salad

Saag paneer

  • 1 14-oz tub firm tofu
  • 3 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapenos, minced
  • 2 lbs baby spinach, well washed (not dried) and pureed in a food processor
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk

Press the tofu between layers of paper towels and place something heavy – like a cast iron pan – on top.  Let it sit for about 20 minutes, and then cut it into about 1/2″ cubes.  Heat the oil in a large cast iron pan over medium heat, and add the tofu.  BE PATIENT.  Don’t touch the tofu until it’s good and golden, otherwise you’ll lose the best part to the pan.  Turn it with a thin metal spatula.  Let it get golden on a couple sides, then remove to a plate in a single layer, and sprinkle with the garam masala, cayenne, and salt.  Set aside.

Turn the heat on the pan to medium-high or slightly lower, add a little oil, if necessary, and add the garlic, ginger, and jalapenos.  Saute for about 30 seconds until fragrant.  Add the spinach and kosher salt, and toss and saute for about 2 minutes.  Turn the heat to medium, and let the liquid evaporate for about 10 minutes.  Add the tofu back to the pan, scraping the plate into the pan to get all the yummy bits of oil and spices.  Add the coconut milk, and let simmer until creamy.

Turmeric-scented quinoa

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups quinoa
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 2 tsp freshly grated turmeric root

Boil the water in a medium saucepan.  Rinse the quinoa in a sieve and add it to the boiling water, along with the salt and turmeric.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, and let simmer until all of the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Sesame green beans

  • 2 lbs fresh green beans, cut into 1″ pieces
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 6 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp freshly grated turmeric
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • Zest of half of a lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the green beans and a healthy handful of kosher salt to the pot.  Let the beans boil for about 4 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water.  Set aside.

Heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat, and add the mustard seeds.  After about 30 seconds, add the garlic, ginger, and turmeric, sauteeing until the garlic is golden, then add the green beans, sesame seeds, cilantro, and the zest and juice of the lemon.  Toss until heated through.

Gujarati cucumber and peanut salad

  • 1 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 lb Persian cucumbers, diced into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup freshly minced coconut meat
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, minced (I omitted this for my clients, but I think it would only make it more awesome)
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Juice of half a lemon

Put the peanuts, cucumbers, sesame seeds, coconut, jalapeno, and cilantro in a bowl.  Place the coconut oil in a small cast iron pan over medium-high heat.  Add the mustard seeds, and fry for about 30 seconds, then add them to the bowl, along with the salt and lemon juice.  Try to not eat it all before serving it to your guests.

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!

French cream of cauliflower soup

This soup is perfect. I lived in France for a year. I have visited France. I have eaten A LOT of French food. Their reputation for making delicious creamy things is well-deserved. I would serve this to a French person. Make it. You will be glad you did.

French cream of cauliflower soup

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 head of cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • 3 small to medium red-skinned potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup Pinot Grigio
  • 4 cups veg stock
  • 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt to taste

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil, and then add the onions. Saute the onions until they’re golden, and then add the cauliflower and potatoes. Stir the cauliflower and potatoes into the onion mixture until they’re fairly coated in the onions. Add the Pinot Grigio and veg stock, cover, and turn the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil. Uncover, turn the heat to medium-low, and let simmer for about 20 minutes, until the cauliflower and potatoes are tender. Remove from heat, and put the whole pot of vegetables into the blender with the sunflower seeds. Blend until completely pureed, and place back in the soup pot. Stir in the pepper and nutmeg, and taste. Salt to taste.

West African Peanut Soup and Ethiopian (not) Honey Bread

A few weeks ago, I saw a recipe on line for this Ethiopian honey bread I’ve been wanting to make, so today was the day!  I knew I’d need to serve it with something dunk-worthy, and tonight being my first EVER back-to-school night, something that could either sit on the stove or be made quickly when I returned, and so I adapted a recipe from my all-time favorite cookbook, Ethnic Cuisine, by Elisabeth Rozin, for African peanut soup.  (And yes, I’m aware that Ethiopia is in eastern Africa, and the soup is western, but they’re still TOTALLY delicious together, so whatever.)

By the way, while I pride myself in making most everything from scratch, you’ll notice a few short cuts here.  Sometimes, a mama’s gotta get dinner on the table!

West African Peanut Soup

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen tri-color bell pepper strips
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 28-oz can diced tomatoes, pureed in the blender
  • 4 cups veg stock
  • Salt to taste
  • 9-oz pkg pre-cooked French lentils
  • 1 cup frozen pre-cooked quinoa/brown rice blend
  • 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp peanut butter, divided

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the oil when the pot is hot, and then add the chopped onion.  Let the onion get soft, and then add the bell pepper strips and the garlic.  Once the vegetables are fragrant, add the pureed tomatoes and veg stock, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the salt, lentils, and the grain blend.  Once the pot is boiling again, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the peanut butter.  Let the pot simmer until the peanut butter has melted into the soup, stirring constantly to prevent the peanut butter from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Puree the soup in the blender, covering the lid with a towel, so you don’t get burned!!  It’s okay to leave some bigger chunks, but it should be mostly really creamy.

Ethiopian (not) Honey Bread

  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 3/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour, plus more for the second rise
  • 3/4 tbsp instant yeast
  • 1/2 tbsp table salt
  • 2 tbsp + 1 tsp canola oil, divided
  • 6 tbsp raw agave
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water

Place the rosemary in a small cast iron pan set over medium heat, and toast until fragrant.  Put the flours, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer, and mix on low speed with the dough hook until combined.  Add the toasted rosemary, canola oil, agave, and then the water, and let the machine knead the dough for about 5 minutes.  The dough should be very sticky and not entirely floured enough to come away from the bowl.  Don’t worry.

Place the last teaspoon of canola oil in a large bowl, scrape the dough into the oiled boil with a spatula, and then, with oiled hands, roll the dough ball around in the oil until it’s oiled.  Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel, and let it rise for about 1 1/2 hours until puffy and doubled in size.

Scrape the dough back into the bowl of the standing mixer, and mix with the dough hook for about 3 minutes.  Place some whole wheat flour on a board, scrape the dough onto the flour, and then generously sprinkle more flour on top of the dough.  Fold the dough over a few times, and then place on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray, cover with the clean dish towel, and let rise for another 20 minutes or so.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake for 20 minutes, until deeply golden brown.

Let the bread cool as long as you can resist cutting into it and slathering Earth Balance on it!