I’m back…with a recipe! PLUS We get requests.

My friends, it’s been too long. And I’ve been busy. But I’ve missed you! I’ve been cooking so much, I’ve not taken the time to attend to my global family.

Today, I made some very delicious food. One of my clients had some special requests, and among them was that my meals and a special dessert all be gluten free. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I LOVE gluten. I mean I really love it. I would marry it. I kind of am married to it. But when my client makes a special request, I most happily oblige. So I made panna cotta. Vegan panna cotta. And it was as easy as everyone said it would be!

I modified a recipe I found on thekitchn.com, and I think it came out great! Let me know what you think!

Also, please, if you’re looking for a vegan version of a favorite food, please let me know, and I’ll see if I can make it deliciously vegan for you! As I said, I take requests!

Please note, I’ve begun cooking and baking in metric. If you need a conversion to imperial measurements, let me know, but do yourself a favor and get yourself a scale!

Coconut panna cotta with blueberries

500g coconut milk
75g sugar
454g coconut milk yogurt
Pinch salt
6g agar agar flakes
2 small baskets of blueberries, divided

Put the coconut milk, sugar, yogurt, salt, and agar agar flakes in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, whisking regularly. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for a couple of minutes.

Divide half of the blueberries equally among 6 6- to 8-oz ramekins. Pour the panna cotta over the blueberries, and put the ramekins in the refrigerator to set for 3 hours or so.

Just before serving, divide the remaining half of the blueberries equally between the ramekins, and 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.

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.