Sometimes, it’s the simple things

When cooking for my clients, I often end up picking a favorite dish of the week. It could be something complicated, with lots of steps, or something requiring a lot of time. It could be a whole meal I love, or something as simple as a sauce. Every once in a while, it’s a humble side salad. Such was the case this week.

I was making a southern-style meal, with biscuits, a black-eyed pea stew, white asparagus, and cole slaw. Cole slaw is easy, and while I used to think I needed a recipe, I’ve realized that I don’t. It’s mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, and I generally use a cheat of pre-shredded cole slaw vegetables, because that’s all it is: just the veggies.

Today, as I was reaching into the fridge to grab the mayo, I spotted the tahini. So I grabbed both. And this simple cole slaw was born.

Tahini cole slaw

1/4 cup mayonnaise (veganaise)
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of one lemon
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp smoked paprika
Salt
Pepper
3 cups pre-shredded cole slaw vegetables

Place the mayo and tahini in a large bowl, and whisk to blend. Add the lemon juice, sugar, paprika, salt, and pepper, and whisk until smooth and well blended. Toss in the vegetables, and mix well with a big spoon. Garnish with extra smoked paprika (because it’s awesome).

The END!

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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!

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.