Friday, May 15, 2020

Lockdown Red Beans & Rice

Here we are two months (!) into the COVID-19 quarantine, and what was once utterly bizarre has become its own bizarre version of "normal." I've been cooking pretty much every day - which sometimes entails augmenting leftovers - and a few new favorites have emerged, with today's recipe a notable example.

Let me begin by admitting that I make no claims to authenticity, especially since the first time I attempted this dish was a week or so into lockdown and we were running low on pretty much everything except spices, with which I always seem magically well supplied. I did, however, have a lot of canned beans, so I hit the internet and settled on Kittee Berns' recipe as a basic model with (as you'll see) some changes. The end result was so delicious that I've already made two batches since that first try, and it's now in regular rotation. This dish is hearty and really only needs rice as an accompaniment, but a side of creamed spinach never comes amiss; you might also make some mashed sweet potatoes, to ensure you're eating the rainbow!

Red Beans and Rice
~ 2 tbsp. canola oil
~ 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
~ ½ tsp. salt
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ 1 large carrot diced
~ 1 large stalk celery, diced
~ 1 small bell pepper, diced
~ 3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 generous tsp. each: Creole seasoning, smoked paprika, thyme
~ ½ tsp. each: cayenne, chili powder
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 3 tbsp. tomato paste mixed w/1 cup hot water
~ 2 cans kidney or other red beans
~ Cooked white rice to serve

~ Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and add the chopped onion; sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook on medium-low for 5-7 minutes, until softened but not brown.
~ Add the carrots, stir, and cook 3-4 minutes more before adding the celery and bell pepper and cooking another 5 minutes or so.
~ Add the garlic and the dry seasonings and stir well; cook another minute until fragrant.
~ Pour in the tomato paste/water mixture, stir well, and then add the beans with their liquid. Cover the pot and raise the heat to high until things just start to bubble, then turn it back down to low, crack the lid, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
~ Remove the lid and continue cooking another 20-30 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and you have a thick stew (you can add some more water if it seems too dry, but this hasn't been my experience).
~ Fish out the bay leaves, taste for seasoning, and serve with white rice and (optional) hot sauce.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Happy Birthday Fishless Curry

My, what interesting times we are living in! A full month into the social-distancing imposed by the COVID-19 crisis, I recently celebrated my birthday - and a highly anticipated grocery delivery - with a culinary experiment I'd been meaning to try for awhile, and I'm happy to report that this veganized take on a Keralan fish curry was an unqualified success. Served over basmati rice alongside masala green beans and roasted sweet potatoes, it was the perfect dinner to mark this rather strange turning of the annual leaf. If you don't have (or want to use) vegan fish, this curry would also be delicious with chickpeas, kidney beans, or baked tofu, so don't let the limitations of your lockdown freezer or cupboards get in your way!

Fishless Curry
~ 2 packages Gardein Fishless Filets
~ 2 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 tsp. black mustard seeds
~ 1 small onion, diced
~ 2 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, curry powder, cumin, chili powder, coriander, fenugreek, turmeric
~ 2 tbsp. tomato paste
~ 2 cans coconut milk

~ In a pot with a heavy bottom, melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat and add the mustard seeds; cook for a minute or so, until the seeds start to splutter and pop.
~ Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until they are softened but not brown.
~ Add the garlic, ginger, and dry seasonings. Stir well and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
~ Stir in the tomato paste and cook another few minutes, stirring.
~ Gradually add in the coconut milk, stirring to get a smooth consistency. Cover the pot and bring the mixture just to a boil, and then remove the lid and turn the heat to low. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
~ Cut the fishless filets into thirds and cook according to package directions. Just before serving, add them to the sauce and cook an additional 5 minutes before ladling over steamed basmati rice.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Cream of Broccoli Soup

It's late February and everyone is tired of it. We haven't had an especially brutal winter here in New England (certainly compared to some recent ones), but by this point in the calendar people have had enough and are feeling a bit delicate. This afternoon I got a craving for cream of broccoli soup, which I haven't made in ages. I first cooked it as a teenager, using the recipe in Molly Kaizen's classic Moosewood Cookbook, and for years that was my go-to version. But when I looked it up I wasn't feeling it, and decided to just hit the kitchen, mess around, and see what happened. Fortunately I kept track of what I was doing so I could share it here, and I think you'll be happy I did when you make this soup!

Cream of Broccoli Soup
~ 3 tbsp. vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
~ 1 large yellow onion, chopped
~ 2 stalks celery, chopped
~ 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, white pepper
~ ½ tsp. turmeric
~ ¼ tsp. each: nutmeg, cayenne pepper
~ 2 tbsp. flour
~ 2 cups boiling water
~ 2 lbs. broccoli, chopped (fresh or frozen)
~ 6 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk, heated with 2 tbsp. "no chicken" bouillon (or other vegan bouillon, but I swear by this stuff)
~ 1 can cannellini or other white beans

~ In a large, deep pot, melt the butter and saute the onion over medium heat about 5 minutes,  until softened but not browned.
~ Add the celery and garlic and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
~ Add the dry seasonings and the flour; stir well and cook for about a minute.
~ Pour in one cup of the boiling water and stir until the mixture thickens; repeat with the remaining water.
~ Add the chopped broccoli to the pot and stir to coat.
~ Pour in the milk/bouillon mixture and stir to combine. Cover the pot, raise the heat to high, and bring the mixture just to a boil.
~ Lower the heat to a simmer, crack the lid slightly, and cook for 20 minutes, until the broccoli is softened but not falling apart.
~ Add the cannellini beans (including their liquid), mix well, and cook another 5 minutes.
~ Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender until completely smooth. Taste for seasoning and serve hot.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Peach, Cherry, and Blueberry Cobbler

It's that time of year when the farmers markets are overflowing with goodies, and we invariably buy too much fruit because we can't help ourselves. Sadly, it's also that time of year when  it's usually too hot to bake, but this morning I got up early enough to justify turning on the oven and transforming our glut of dirt candy into this splendid cobbler (or crumble, or buckle, or whatever. These distinctions exhaust me). Compared to most such recipes, I use relatively little sugar - fruit is sweet, kids! -  and not much fat, so this dish is as good for breakfast as dessert, accompanied by yogurt rather than vanilla ice cream. (Or not; it's your call!)

Peach, Cherry, and Blueberry Cobbler
The Filling 
~ 6 ripe yellow peaches, cut into chunks
~ 1 pint fresh blueberries
~ 1 pint fresh cherries, pitted and halved
~ 3 tbsp. flour
~ 2 tbsp. brown sugar
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, ground cinnamon, ground ginger
~ ¼ tsp. nutmeg

~ In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and set aside (easy, right?)

The Topping
~ 1.5 cups white whole-wheat (or all-purpose) flour
~ ⅓ cup brown sugar
~ 2 tsp. baking powder
~ ½ tsp. each: salt, ground cinnamon
~ 1 ¼ cup plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 2 tbsp. vegan butter, melted (I use Earth Balance)
~ 1 tsp. vanilla extract

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a 9 x 13" casserole with cooking spray.
~ In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
~ In a beaker, whisk together the milk, butter, and vanilla extract.
~ Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and combine well to make a smooth batter.
~ Transfer the filling to the greased casserole and distribute evenly.
~ Pour the batter over the fruit by large spoonfuls, and then use a rubber spatula to smooth it out. NB it doesn't need to be perfect or cover the fruit completely; this is a fairly no-frills affair.
~ Sprinkle the top with little sugar (if you like), and bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.
~ Remove from heat and allow to rest at least 20 minutes before serving. This is equally good warm, room temperature, or as refrigerated leftovers!

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Urad Dal with Crispy Shallots

A little over a month ago I stepped on a cracked sidewalk and fractured my ankle. (I should note that I also taught both of my classes before going to the ER because 1. they were our penultimate meetings of the semester, 2. I really thought it was just twisted, and 3. that's what I'm like.) Needless to say, being injured is inconvenient and uncomfortable, and one of the many things it's impeded has been my ability to cook, since for the first couple weeks I was on crutches and couldn't stand very long. Thankfully I have a lovely, helpful partner who has taken care of pretty much everything, which includes keeping us fed

So while I have produced a few things (notably last week's Lancashire butter pie), I've mostly been confined to a kitchen chair and acting as sous chef. But this past week a cupboard inventory yielded a container of black urad dal, and I was inspired to try my hand at Dal Makhani, a North Indian dish traditionally made with butter and cream. After a little Googling I was able to conflate and tweak a few recipes to produce an extremely hearty curry that needs nothing but rice to be a complete meal, and which I hope you'll enjoy as much as we did. (NB that in addition to reducing the fat - a lot - and substituting non-dairy alternatives, I eschewed the kidney beans many versions call for, and added a garnish of crispy shallots because I had a ton of them that needed using.)

Urad Dal
~ 1.5 cups urad dal, rinsed and soaked overnight
~ 1 tbsp. each: coconut oil; vegan butter
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ 3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
~ 1 tsp. each: kosher salt, asafoetida, cumin, garam masala, smoked paprika, chili powder, fenugreek
~ ½ tsp. each: cardamom, cayenne pepper
~ 1 15 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
~ 4 cups water or stock (I used Better Than Bouillon "no chicken")
~ 1 15 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
~ Chopped fresh cilantro

~ In a large, deep pot, melt the coconut oil and butter and cook the onion over medium heat (stirring occasionally) for about 10 minutes, until soft but not browned.
~ Add the garlic, ginger, and dry spices and cook another few minutes; stir in the tomatoes and cook 10 minutes more.
~ Add the drained urad dal and water or stock, bring just to a boil, and then turn the heat to low and cook for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. (NB this may take a bit longer; you want the dal to be very soft but to still retain some shape.)
~ When the dal is soft, add the coconut milk and cook another 5-10 minutes.
~ Taste for seasoning and serve topped with rice or naan, topped with chopped cilantro and crispy shallots (below).

Crispy Shallots
~ 1-2 tbsp. canola oil
~ 10 large shallots, sliced
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt

~ In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook the shallots until crispy but not burned (this should take about 10 minutes). Sprinkle with salt and set aside.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Lancashire Butter Pie

"I had another look and I had a cup of tea and a butter pie."

Today's post marks my triumphant return to the kitchen, after several weeks laid up with a fractured ankle. The recipe itself is so easy and so good that it's absurd I've never made it before, particularly considering my well-known obsession with savory pies and pastries of all types. But there it is and here we are, and I will definitely be making this pie on a regular basis from now on. 

Traditional in Lancashire (where it is also known as "Catholic pie" or "Friday pie," due to its lack of meat), butter pie is basically just layers of potatoes, onions, and - you guessed it - butter baked in a pie crust, which cannot possibly be anything but A Very Good Idea. Veganizing the prototype was a complete doddle: I substituted vegan butter for the dairy variety, and added a sprinkle of thyme. Because I am 1. lazy, and 2. not great with pastry, I used a prepared pie crust for the base; I also took the advice of a Lancastrian blogger who suggested using puff pastry for the top, which produced the beauteous golden specimen in the photo above. 

Considering the simplicity of its few ingredients, the finished product had a lovely and surprisingly complex flavor; the softened onions completely permeated the potatoes, and the whole thing was comforting and more-ish without being podgy. All in all an unqualified win, and highly recommended!

Lancashire Butter Pie
~ 1 prepared single pie crust (homemade or shop-bought; your call)
~ 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (Pepperidge Farm is vegan)
~  4 tbsp. cold vegan butter such as Earth Balance, Miyoko’s, etc.
~ 2 large yellow onions, cut into crescents
~ 4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into approximately 1/6” slices
~ Salt, pepper, thyme

~ Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
~ Parboil the potatoes in plenty of salted water for 6-10 minutes, until they are just soft but still holding their shape. Drain immediately and set aside to cool.
~ In a large skillet, melt 3 tbsp. of the butter and cook the onions over medium-high heat, stirring often to make sure they don’t brown. Sprinkle with salt, fresh black pepper, and about a ½ tsp. thyme and set aside.
~ To assemble, layer 1/3 of the cooled, sliced potatoes in the bottom of your pie crust; dot with 1 tsp. of cold butter and season with salt & pepper, and follow with half the cooked onions.
~ Repeat these layers, ending with the last 1/3 of the potatoes, the last tsp. butter, and more salt & pepper.
~ Roll out the puff pastry and lay it over the top of the pie, crimping the edges to seal. If you have extra puff pastry around the edges, you can trim it away and cut it into decorative shapes (or not).
~ Brush the top crust with about 2 tbsp. plain, unsweetened soymilk. If you are using decorative puff pastry bits, you should dunk them in the milk and then apply them to the top of the pie. Prick several times with a fork and place on a baking sheet.
~ Bake in the center of the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-45 minutes, until the crust is golden and puffy.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.

Sunday, May 12, 2019


Greetings, friends! This is Elizavegan’s partner (never - under any circumstances - to be known as  "Elizahegan"). I’ve had a few guest posts on this blog before, and am doing this one to check in and let you know that the Elizavegan is still in business, though powerfully busy with a PhD, substantial teaching load, and many other things. For the last few weeks, she has been laid up with an ankle injury; in the interim, I’ve been doing most of the cooking. 

Generally, I perform somewhere between 2% and 10% of the domestic kitchen detail, depending on our respective levels of busyness. Everyone is happy with this arrangement because Elizavegan loves making food, and I enjoy performing minor sous-chef duties like stripping kale, chopping onions, washing pots, and refreshing drinks. 

But in the past few weeks it’s been fun to dive back in with the inspiring help of this great little blog. As her recovery has progressed, we’ve gone from passive to active collaboration: when her ankle was really bad, she would sit still and help me with advice and support, but as it’s started healing, she’s occasionally been standing up and doing some late-stage fiddling, which inevitably makes the stuff 100% better.

Anyway, here are a few classics I’ve made over the last few weeks, and at various times during this past (busy!) semester:

Avgolemono Soup: I believe this is by far the most visited recipe on the blog.

Risotto alla Milanese: Aside from the obvious stirring of rice and broth that is the essence of risotto, this is a very easy dish.

Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese: What can I say? Everybody raves, everybody loves, you will never be disappointed. Mac and cheese as it exists in the mind of God, if God doesn’t eat animals!

American Chop Suey: This is beautifully trashy and stupidly easy. THE thing for that night when you want dinner within the hour, and not a difficult hour at that!

On Greek Easter, I even made Pastitsio, which is one of my all-time favorites. Our omnivorous family devoured it with enthusiasm, especially our highly honored 1.5 year old guest, who snorked them down in quantity while exclaiming “NOODLES!!!” Definitely check that out for a Greeky treat.

More fun collaborations to come; stay tuned!