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)

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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.

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.

The genius of the Mediterranean

I love the food of the Mediterranean. I lived in France for a year – in the Loire Valley, but I prefer the food of Provence. I’ve never been to Italy or Greece, except in my fantasies, but I have been to Spain and Portugal and Israel and Argentina…cultures that emphasize fresh, delicious, in-season produce in their cooking. Cultures that melt tomatoes in olive oil, that brilliantly combine garlic and lemon parts to make miraculous, simple un-sauces, where perfect olives of infinite variety are tapas…

In all of these places, veganism would seem preposterous to most people. Why would you willingly cut out whole categories of food? No matter. I’m grateful for the inspiration. Grateful for the history and tradition and invention.

And so, voila, my homage to the Mediterranean.

I should note that when my 5-year-old tasted this, she said, unsolicited, “You should definitely serve this to your clients. Definitely.” I also think this would make a super yummy pizza topping. And a little secret: the broccoli and tomatoes were left over from a crudite tray. Ew – refrigerated tomatoes. But in this dish, delicious!!

Mediterranean pasta

  • 1 tbsp + 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, broken into small pieces
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4-5 fat garlic-stuffed olives (or Greek-cured or kalamata), sliced
  • Juice and zest of half of a lemon (I used a Meyer)
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 1 lb whole wheat penne
  • 1/2 cup almond meal

Put a large covered saucepan of water to boil over high heat. Once boiling, cook the pasta (add salt!) until al dente, and then drain. Meanwhile, heat a large cast iron pan over a bit over medium heat and add the tbsp of oil, and then, one it’s shimmering, add the shallots and broccoli. Saute for 3 or 4 minutes, then add the tomatoes, garlic, and oregano. Coax the tomatoes into melting by poking them with a sharp knife. Add the rest of the oil, the chickpeas, olives, lemon zest and juice, and salt to taste. Let simmer and melt while the pasta cooks.

Heat a small cast iron pan over medium heat, and add the almond meal. Toast, stirring often, for about ten minutes until well toasted but not burned.

Toss the pasta with the sauce, adding a drizzle of olive oil if you like. Sprinkle each serving with almond meal, and serve.

Chickpea of the sea

This post is dedicated to non-vegans who might be looking for something a little different to add to their lunch routine. I’m almost embarrassed to post it, because it’s hardly a recipe and there are plenty of recipes like it out there, but it just might not have occurred to some of you that you can make this.

I’ve heard from a surprising number of vegans that we all miss the same thing: tuna salad. So, this is a great alternative – mercury and cholesterol (not to mention cruelty) free – that tastes great. It does the trick for me, when I’m craving something like tuna or egg salad. The optional seaweed gives the salad a slightly fishy flavor (like tuna, duh), and is a good excuse to snack on roasted seaweed, a food that is both super duper good for you and completely addictive!

Chickpea salad

  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tsp relish
  • 1 tsp mustard (I like brown or Dijon)
  • 1 tsp Maldon or other coarse salt
  • 2 or 3 small sheets roasted seaweed snack, shredded (optional)

Drain the chickpeas very well and put them in a bowl. Mash them with a potato masher until well mashed, and no whole beans remain. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well with a fork, mashing and mixing as you would with tuna. Eat on whole wheat toast or with crackers. Add a tomato slice, some lettuce, pickles, avocado, or whatever you would eat on a tuna or egg salad sandwich!