Friday, April 11, 2014


I seem to be in a pattern of making/posting about things about which I know nothing at all, and today's offering is no exception. I had never even heard of okonomiyaki until this past Shrove Tuesday (i.e. pancake day), when I saw them on a "pancakes around the world" Buzzfeed list. But one look and I knew I had to try one - or something like one - at the earliest opportunity. As luck would have it, my partner lived upstairs from a place that churned them out in quantity back when he was in grad school, so I had an educated palate to give me feedback as I compared the relative possibilities and merits of various recipes. The end product was a sort of semi-crispy veggie frittata/pancake hybrid, and while I have no idea if it actually tasted anything like it was meant to, it was still pretty damned good. And anyway, what could possibly be wrong with learning another way to eat pancakes?

~ 12 oz. firm silken tofu
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk 
~ 1/4 cup rice wine
~ 2 tbsp. mellow white miso
~ 1 tbsp. hot sauce (I used Sriracha)
~ 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1/2 cup each: all purpose flour, chickpea flour
~ 1 tsp. each: chili powder, ground ginger
~ 1 tsp. black salt
~ Blend all ingredients in a food processor and transfer to a mixing bowl. You should have a texture similar to a pancake batter; add a little extra water if it seems too thick.
~ 1 large onion, quartered and sliced into thin crescents
~ 3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 red bell pepper, sliced into matchsticks
~ 1 cup sliced mushrooms
~ 3 cups shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and/or brussels sprouts
~ 1 large carrot, shredded
~ 1/2 cup chopped scallions
~ Place a nonstick baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 300 degrees.
~ Coat a large, deep skillet with cooking spray and cook the onions, garlic, bell pepper,and mushrooms over high heat for about 5-7 minutes.

~ Add the cabbage and/or bean sprouts, carrots, and scallions, and cook another minute or two, until ever so slightly wilted. 

~ Remove from heat, add the cooked vegetables to the pancake batter, and mix thoroughly.

~ Set aside for at least 10 minutes.

~ Wipe out the skillet, place over medium-high heat, and add another coating of cooking spray.

~ Pour in half the okonomiyaki mixture and allow it to spread out to form a pancake.
~ Cook over medium-high heat for about 10-15 minutes, then flip (carefully!) and cook 10-15 minutes more, until browned and crusty. 
~ Remove the first pancake to the preheated baking sheet and cook the remaining half of the batter as above.

~ Cut the cooked okonomiyaki into wedges and serve with tonkatsu sauce and spicy mayonnaise. (I mixed 1/2 c. Vegenaise with a healthy shot each of hot sauce, soy sauce, and agave; not traditional, I'm sure, but good!)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Ričet (Slovenian Bean & Barley Stew)

I was inspired to make this when my lovely new friend Tina, who hails from Slovenia, posted about it on Facebook. Since I know little to nothing about Slovenian cuisine and am always excited to try something new, this bean and barley stew seemed like the perfect antidote to a cold, sleety, nasty day. (Also note that this was March 31, fully 11 days after the vernal equinox. Enough, already!) I consulted the prototype my friend had posted, did a bit of Googling to look at various recipes - most of which traditionally contain sausages, pork, and/or (gulp) lard - and came up with the following rendition. Since I've never had The Thing Itself, I can't comment on whether my dish remotely resembles the original, and take full responsibility for any egregious departures I might have made. But  it was certainly a delicious, hearty stew, and everyone in our house hovered it up with enthusiasm; so thanks, Tina!

~ 1 cup red kidney beans, soaked overnight (or at least 8 hours)
~ 1.5 cup barley, soaked for an hour or two
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 10 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 2 tbsp. oil
~ 1 red onion, chopped
~ 2 large carrots, sliced into half moons
~ 2 large stalks celery, diced
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 3 fist-sized potatoes, diced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, dill, thyme, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, parsley
~ 1/2 tsp. each: cumin, sage
~ A few generous grinds black pepper

~ Drain and rinse the kidney beans and barley, and place them in a large, deep pot. Add the broth and the bay leaves, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally.
~ Place a large, deep skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onions, carrots, and celery, and cook for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, potatoes, and dry seasonings. Stir to combine, cover, and continue cooking for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.
~ When the beans and barley have cooked for an hour, add the vegetable mixture to the soup pot, stir, and replace the cover. Continue cooking for another hour or so, until everything has softened and you have a thick stew. (If it seems too thick, you can add a bit of broth or water; if too thin, crack the lid and cook a bit longer, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick.)
~ Remove from heat, fish out the bay leaves, and serve. This stew is so substantial that it's really a meal all by itself, but to carb-loving people like us, a hunk of good crusty bread never comes amiss (we opted for rye).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Quasi-Irish Stew

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!

Let me begin this St Patrick's Day-inspired recipe with the disclaimer that it makes no claims to Actual Authenticity. That said, a fair amount of research and a consultation with my Irish BFF confirmed my longstanding impression that traditional Irish Stew is actually "pretty feckin' boring," and requires certain additions (herbs, spices, a bit of fat not leeched from the carcass of some poor, long-dead sheep) to be appealing to jaded post-modern, non-famine-sharpened palates. With that idea in mind, I took my usual approach: conflating several putatively traditional recipes with my own gut instincts to produce a "good parts version." The end result was disconcertingly like the thick, meaty stews my English mother made when I was growing up; unsurprisingly, it went over big with my perpetually hungry household. So while I can't testify to its "Irishness," I will say that this stew bears a strong resemblance to the cooking of at least one second-generation Irish Brummie, and that's a damn sight closer to the old sod than corned beef and green beer!

Quasi-Irish Stew
~ 2 tbsp. canola or or other neutral-flavored oil
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 2 leeks, chopped
~ 3 large carrots, cut into chunky diagonal slices
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, thyme, marjoram
~ 1/2 tsp. rosemary, crushed in your fingers
~ 2 bay leaves
~ A few generous grinds black pepper
~ 4 good-sized potatoes, cubed
~ 6 cups no chicken broth
~ 1 tbsp. each: vegan Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste
~ 1 tsp. each: Marmite, Liquid Smoke
~ 12 oz. vegan stout (I used Sam Smith's Oatmeal)
~ 2 cups seitan, reconstituted TVP, soy curls, or other meat substitute, cut into "stew-sized" pieces
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1/4 cup flour

~ In a large, deep pot, cook the onions, leeks, and carrots in the oil over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, until beginning to soften.
~ Add the dry seasonings and the potatoes, stir to coat, and continue cooking another minute or two.
~ In a large beaker, combine the broth, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, Marmite, and Liquid Smoke. Add this mixture to the vegetables, stir, and then pour in the stout.
~ Add your chosen "meat," cover the pot, bring the whole business to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer.
~ Continue cooking, covered, for an hour, until the vegetables are quite soft.
~ In a small bowl, whisk together the soy milk and flour, and add this mixture to the pot. Combine thoroughly, and cook the stew 5-10 minutes more, until slightly thickened.
~ Taste for seasoning, fish out the bay leaves, and serve hot, ideally with fresh soda bread.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Simple Yellow Dal with Spinach

Yes, it's another curry! This one is a simple, comforting dal for those nights when you need a little warming up from the inside. Best of all, it requires very little actual effort, since most of the cooking time takes the form of inactive simmering, giving you a chance to have a drink, make a side dish or two, and/or have a nice, hot bath before adding a last-minute handful of spinach, dishing it up, and feeling the love.

Simple Yellow Dal with Spinach
~ 2 cups chana dal (yellow split peas), rinsed and soaked
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 tsp. each: mustard seeds, cumin seeds
~ 1 medium onion, diced
~ 1 tbsp. each: minced garlic, grated ginger
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, cumin, chili powder, garam masala, fenugreek
~ 1/2 tsp. each: turmeric, asafoetida, cinnamon, cayenne
~ 1 14 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes, including liquid (about 2 cups)
~ 4 cups good, flavorful vegetable broth (homemade or store-bought)
~ 1/2 lb. frozen spinach
~ 1/2 cup fresh, chopped cilantro (optional)

~ In a large, deep pot, melt the coconut oil over medium high heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and stir briefly, until they begin to sizzle and pop. Add the onions, lower the heat to medium, and sauté about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
~ Add the garlic, ginger, and dry seasonings and cook for a minute or so, until fragrant.
~ Add the soaked, drained chana dal and stir to coat. Toast for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes and broth.
~ Cover the pot, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, crack the lid, and simmer for an hour, until the liquid has been almost entirely absorbed and the dal is quite soft.
~ Add the frozen spinach and cook 10 minutes more, then stir in the fresh cilantro (if using) and serve hot with steamed basmati rice and/or naan.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Baked Stuffed Mushrooms

I feel genuinely sorry for those sad, misguided people who claim to dislike - or even hate - mushrooms. because they are missing out on one of this life's most delicious things. On the other hand, their narrow-minded prejudice leaves more fungus for those among us with the wit and discernment to appreciate the 'shroom's unique and earthy charms. 

Today's treatment of the delightful Agaricus bisporus is based on a recipe posted on the PPK awhile back, which was in its turn inspired  by one from the infamous Pioneer Woman. (I won't link to the latter because A. her recipes are bursting with every type of carnage imaginable, and B. her whole cowgirl schtick annoys the living bejesus out of me.) Anyway, while planning snacks for what was conceived as a cozy family-and-a-few-close-friends New Year's Eve - in the event it became something of a bacchanal, but that's another story - I came across this recipe and a little bell went off in my head because what could be better suited to a finger-foodie occasion, right? 

Well, let me tell you these babies totally delivered the goods: vegans, omnivores, invited drunkards, and random droppers-in alike devoured them, and my only regret was that I hadn't made twice as many. These will definitely be making a reappearance at future gatherings, and I hope they will at yours, too. (For the record, I also made mini crustless quiches, pesto pinwheels, a baked spinach and artichoke dip I have yet to type up, and a bunch of less complicated stuff like crudités, dip, chips and salsa, etc. 'Twas good!)

Baked Stuffed Mushrooms
~ 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed
~ 3 tbsp. water
~ 1 8oz container Tofutti cream cheese
~ 3/4 cup nutritional yeast
~ 3 10 oz. packages large white mushrooms, cleaned and de-stemmed
~ 2 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 medium onion, diced very fine
~ 4 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, sage, marjoram, thyme
~ ½ tsp. each: white pepper, dill, smoked paprika
~ 1/3 cup white wine
~ 1 package veggie meatballs, cooked and mashed (I like Nate's or TJ's)
~ 1 tbsp. each: hot sauce, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 1 tsp. each: Liquid Smoke, Marmite

~ Preheat the oven to 375 fahrenheit and coat a large, rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ In a mixing bowl, whisk together the ground flax seed and water and allow to thicken for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream cheese and nooch, mixing until smooth, and set aside.
~ In a large, deep skillet, sauté the onion over medium heat until soft and golden but not brown; about 7 minutes.
~ While the onion is cooking, finely chop the mushroom stems, add them to the onions, and continue cooking about 5 minutes more.
~ Add the garlic and dry seasonings and cook a few more minutes.
~ Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan and cook another minute or two, then add the mashed meatballs and stir to combine.
~ Add the hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Liquid Smoke, and Marmite. Mix well, and continue cooking another 5 minutes. 
~ Mix in the cream cheese/nooch mixture, combine thoroughly, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
~ Carefully fill the mushroom tops with stuffing mix (you can pack them pretty full) and arrange them on the baking sheet; I had just about the right amount of stuffing for the number of mushrooms, but your mileage may vary.
~ Bake at 375 for 30 minutes (ovens differ wildly from one another, so check them periodically), until the tops are browned and the whole business smells delicious. 

~ Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before transferring to a platter and serving to the rapturous applause of family and/or friends.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Vegetable Coconut Curry

I served this Thai-inspired vegetable curry alongside a simple yellow dal (recipe to follow; watch this space), but you could easily make it a one-dish meal by adding some tofu, tempeh, cooked chickpeas, etc. This dish is  quite saucy - PHWOAR! - which is A Very Good Thing, because the broth is so delicious you may just want to drink it straight. But resist the urge and serve on a pile of fluffy rice instead, which will ensure that you eat your veggies and have something to soak up any extra sauce.

Vegetable Coconut Curry
~ 2 14 oz. cans coconut milk (I used one "lite" and one full fat)
~ 4 tsp. "no chicken" bouillon
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 1-2 tbsp. hot sauce (or to taste)
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 large, yellow onion, diced
~ 1 tbsp. each: minced garlic, grated ginger
~ 1 large carrot, sliced thinly on the diagonal
~ 1 large red bell pepper, diced
~ 1 medium zucchini, sliced thinly on the diagonal
~ 1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
~ 1 generous tsp. each: cumin, coriander, ground lemongrass, chili powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: salt, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom
~ 3 medium cooked potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes (I used Yukon Gold)
~ 1 small head broccoli, cut into florets with stalks sliced thinly
~ Juice of 1 lime

~ In a beaker or pot, combine the coconut milk, bouillon, bay leaves, and hot sauce, and heat nearly to boiling. Cover and set aside to "steep."
~ In a large wok or very deep skillet, melt the coconut oil and sauté the onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
~ Add the garlic, ginger, and carrots; stir just until fragrant.
~ Add the bell pepper, zucchini, mushrooms, and dry seasonings. Stir well and continue cook for about 5 minutes, until the veggies are cooked but not completely softened.
~ Stir in the potatoes, mix well, and pour in the coconut milk mixture. Cover the pan, bring just to a boil,  then reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes more.
~ Add the broccoli, replace the cover, and cook for about 4-5 minutes, until the broccoli is bright green but still a bit crisp.
~ Stir in the lime juice and serve hot over jasmine or basmati rice.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Magical Black Bean Soup

Onions chopped and peppers diced,
Garlic minced and carrots sliced;
Broth of veggies, beans of black,
Every spice within the rack.
Simmer for a good long time,
add coconut, tomatoes, lime;
For a dinner so nutritious,
Brew this soup, 'cause it’s delicious.

Magical Black Bean Soup
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ 1 large stalk celery, chopped fine
~ 1 large carrot, diced
~ 1 large red bell pepper, diced
~ 2 tsp. each: cumin, chili powder
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme, oregano, marjoram, basil, cilantro, smoked paprika, coriander, adobo seasoning
~ 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
~ 1/4 tsp. cayenne
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 15 oz. can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, including liquid
~ 3 15 oz. cans black beans, drained
~ 2 cups no chicken broth
~ 1 15 oz. can "lite" coconut milk
~ 1 tbsp. hot sauce (I like Frank's)
~ Juice of 1 lime

~ In a large, heavy bottomed pot, melt the coconut oil and sauté the onion, celery, and carrot over medium heat for about 5 minutes. 
~ Add the bell pepper and dried seasonings, stir well, and continue cooking another 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened.
~ Add the garlic, cook for about a minute, then add the tomatoes and cook 5 minutes more.
~ Stir in the beans and the broth, cover the pot, and bring just to a boil. 
~ Reduce the heat to a simmer, crack the lid a bit, and continue cooking for about an hour, until the mixture is quite soft and beginning to thicken. Stir occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick.
~ Remove and discard the bay leaves, and add the coconut milk, hot sauce, and lime juice; cook about 5 minutes more.
~ With an immersion blender, partially purée the mixture; the soup shouldn't be completely smooth, but should still have some texture. If it seems too thick, you can add a bit of water or broth.
~ Taste for seasoning and serve hot, optimally with cornbread
Peace! The charm's wound up.