Monday, October 31, 2011

vegan mofo :: grand finale contest! win a copy of my new cookbook (and surprise prize)!

It's here – finally!
I have in my hot little hands a finished copy of my new cookbook, Celebrate Vegan: 200 Life-Affirming Recipes for Occasions Big and Small. It took about 2 years to complete from concept to finish, and seeing it all "grown up" and ready to go out into the world in its own is a bit surreal. And talk about coincidences: the book centers on celebrations and holidays, and my box of authors' copies arrives on Halloween. Spooky!

To celebrate my book of vegan celebrations -- and to mark the end of Vegan Mofo 2011, I am hosting one last, grand finale contest. To enter, simply follow me [@theurbanvegan] on Twitter.   I'll announce winner in a few days. [Please spread the word!]

And as a special added bonus... if you leave a comment here, telling me what you'd like to see more of on my blog [eg, raw recipes, decadent recipes, travel tips], you'll be eligible to win a second, blog-only prize. I'll also announce the blog-only winner –and prize – in a few days.

Happy Halloween and good luck!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

vegan mofo :: semi-healthy monkey bread recipe

Monkey Bread after the second rise, ready to go into the oven.
Who doesn't love Monkey Bread? Think of this gooey pull-apart sweet as part cinnamon bun and part Dunkin' Munchkin'. Recipes for Monkey Bread first started popping up in women's magazines in the 1950s, and although there's much speculation about the origins of its intriguing name, I haven't found one yet that I actually believe. No matter. Like Will Shakespeare said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Even if Monkey Bread were called Hippo Bread, it would still taste just as seratonin-inducing and comforting. What's not comforting is the fact that most Monkey Breads are made using....shudder!... refrigerated, store-bought biscuit mix and more butter than a Paula Dean buffet.

My first cookbook, The Urban Vegan, included a recipe for Deconstructed Monkey Bread. I created it because, although I love all the flavors of Monkey Bread [cinnamon, sugar, sticky caramel], I don't always have time to wait around for the yeast to rise, and frankly, sometimes, I just can't always be bothered. But yesterday's untimely snowstorm inspired some extreme kitchen lingering. So I set out to further "healthify" and veganize a traditional yeasted Monkey Bread recipe that I spotted in Cooking Light While this baked, my loft smelled much more fragrant than a candle shop. I'm sure the neighbors were jealous. Scroll down for the recipe...

Monkey Bread is perfect for breakfast with coffee or tea. I like it warmed with extra Earth Balance [I know, I know]

Working with Yeast for Neophytes
If you've never worked with yeast before, understanding the basic science behind the rising process is an important foundation. Once you "get" how yeast works, you'll be less apt to mess up the process.

Yeast is a living organism. It's dormant in packages and jars, much like seeds in a packet. Like seeds, yeast needs nourishment, moisture, and warmth to grow. So think of your yeast as a little pet that needs to be nurtured. The first step is to add warm liquid to the yeast to activate it or "wake it up." This is the most important step: If the liquid is too hot, it will kill the yeast. Too cool, and the yeast won't wake up. Many recipes list optimal "wake up" temperatures between 110-125 degrees, but I don't own a thermometer and have never used one. I just use the "feeding the baby" wrist temperature rule. You want the liquid very warm, but not so warm that it would scald a baby's--or an adult's mouth. If it feels neutral but warm on your wrist, it's probably okay.

The yeast also needs food, which is nearly always some form of sugar [In this recipe's case, it's maple syrup]. Once the yeast is warm and starts consuming the sugar, it emits carbon dioxide [yeast farts?!], which – you guessed it – causes your baked goods to rise to light and lovely new heights.

 Recipe Semi-Healthy Monkey Bread

  • 3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 T Earth Balance, melted
  • 3/4 cup neutral, non-dairy milk--very warm*
  • 3 T orange juice, very warm*
  • 3 T maple syrup

Cinnamon Coating:
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger

  • 2 T Earth Balance, melted
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk

  • 6 T powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1 T non-dairy milk
  • 1 tsp orange zest [optional]

Makes 1 bundt pan of Monkey Bread, about 12 substantial servings

  1. Spray a large bowl and a bundt pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer's mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and yeast, and using dough hook, stir briefly to mix.
  3. In a glass bowl or Pyrex measuring cup, heat the Earth Balance, milk, orange juice and maple syrup until very warm.
  4. With mixer running, slowly add the warm liquid. Mix on medium until spring and smooth, about 5 minutes or so. Gather dough into a ball, roll in the bowl to coat with cooking spray, then cover with a tea towel or aluminum foil and place in a warm, draft-free place to rise– about 1 hour. 
  5. Mix cinnamon coating ingredients in a shallow dish.
  6. Mix "glue" ingredients in a shallow dish.
  7. Punch down dough and divide into 8 balls. [Cover the balls you're not working with so they don't dry out.] Roll each ball into an 8-inch log and cut into 3 pieces. Roll each one into a ball. Dip the ball in the "glue," then roll it in the sugar, then toss it in the oiled bundt pan. Continue this way until you use up all the dough,
  8. Again, cover the bundt pan with foil or a tea towel, and let it rise somewhere warm and draft-free until doubled in bulk, about an hour. About 15 minutes before the yeast has crescendoed, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden. [Enjoy the aroma!]
  9. While the bread is baking, whisk together the glaze ingredients.
  10. Let the bread cool for about 5 minutes, then flip it out onto a large plate. [You can also just leave it in the bundt pan, which doesn't look as pretty, but I find much easier to store]
  11. Drizzle with glaze and enjoy!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

vegan mofo :: soupe au pistou [pesto soup] and my favorite cookbook

Soupe au Pistou combines harvest veggies with the last of the summer's pesto.
"I'm dreaming of a white Halloween?"
It's October 29, and it's snowing in Philadelphia. Yes, snowing! Looking out my window onto the city streets is like peering into a gigantic snow globe. Picturesque, yes, but it's a bit jarring for mid-autumn, not to mention a plan buster [I was going to drive to Bucks County to spend the day with friends]. Still, snowstorm exile is the perfect excuse to putter around in the kitchen. Soupe Au Pistou is a Provençal vegetable soup, traditionally made during late summer/early fall. This hearty potage gets its name from a sweet, licorice-scented dollop of pesto that enhances the humble kaleidoscope of cooked harvest produce – sort of like an Hermès scarf dressing up jeans and a T-shirt. Traditionally, it's made with basil pesto, but you can use any kind of pesto you want. [See my previous post on 21 Pesto Ideas].

I adapted and simplified this recipe from one of my most beloved, most-used cookbooks, Recettes de Provençe. I bought it in a little shop in Antibes, France, many years ago for about $10, and its now dog-eared and batter-spattered – which only endears it to me more. Recettes de Provençe is not exactly a best-selling French cookbook. It's a regional recipe collection with few exact measurements, quirky directions, and vague cooking instructions that assume readers already know their way around la cuisine.  [Most French readers do, bien sûr.] In this soup recipe, for example, the author calls for "une petite poignée de macaronis," or "A small handful of macaroni." Now your idea of a small handful might be quite different than mine, but that's what I love the most about this coobook – the absence of ego. The assumption that the reader has a brain. The room for improvisation. The endless fields of lavender and sunflowers instead of an October Nor'easter...

Soupe Au Pistou

  • 1 cup dried beans, soaked overnight and rinsed [I used cannelini beans]
  • 2 cups green beans, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1 or 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 cups vegetable stock, plus more if needed [I recommend Better Than Boullion brand]
  • 1 T dried thyme
  • 3 T dried parselyA handful of small pasta [I used orzo]
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • About a cup of your favorite pesto 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for the gourmandes

Serves 8

Combine the beans, vegetables, bay leaf, and stock into a large soup pot. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer for several hours over a low flame, adding stock as needed. I simmered mine for about 2 hours. The longer it cooks, the more the flavors meld and the more "grandma-like" it will taste. [My grandmother used to simmer soup for hours over her coal stove.]

About 15 minutes before you serve the soup, toss in the herbs and pasta. Adjust the seasonings.

To serve, ladle into bowls and top each serving with a healthy dollop of pesto. Be sure to set a small pitcher of best-quality olive oil on the table for drizzling.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

pathetically easy indian chard

"Use me, before I wilt!"
I regret to inform you that this recipe was not inspired by an Indian cookbook, Bollywood movies, or Ganesh, my favorite Hindu deity, but rather, by unabashed laziness and boredom. For the past week, a succulent bunch of rainbow chard from my CSA share had been screaming out to me each time I opened the 'fridge. I knew if I didn't use it soon, it would be wiltsville. So I set out to prepare the chard as I habitually do – sauteed with garlic and olive oil. Bored by my cooking rut, I peeked in my spice cupboard scanning the mountain of jars and plastic bags to see what magical ingredient might perk it up. Garam Masala: sweet, hot, spicy -- exactly what the doctor ordered. I quickly added some grated ginger to the saute, sprinkled the end result with Garam Masalaand a healthy, iron-packed – and pathetically easy side dish was born.

Indian Chard is great on its own, but better over basmati rice.

[Pathetically] Easy Indian Chard
  • 2 bunches of chard, stems removed and cut into 1-inch shards [Sorry, I couldn't resist]
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup water or broth
  • 2 tsp garam masala, or to taste
  • Salt to taste
Serves 4 as a side

Heat oil in a large, non-stick pan over medium. Add garlic and ginger and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add chard and saute until the color deepens, about 5-10 minutes, Stir in water or broth, cover and cook another 5 or so minutes or until soft and most of the liquid is evaporated. Stir in garam masala [Start with less. You can always add more.]. Salt to taste

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

vegan mofo :: working with vegan phyllo and "vegan diner" winner

Working with phyllo is easier than you might think,

Are you suffering from phyllo-phobia – an intense, irrational fear of cooking with phyllo? Many folks are intimidated by working with these thin sheets of flaky pastry. Fear not! It's all a matter of being well-prepared and organized. This easy, fun recipe for Mushroom Cups with Shallots and Sage is designed to help you overcome your fears. 

Most phyllo is made with butter, but many health food stores, like Whole Foods, sell a vegan version. You can also order it directly from Fillo Factory.  Or if you're one of those ambitious, Martha Stewart types, you can even make vegan phyllo dough from scratch using this recipe. Before you get started, keep these phyllo-handling tips in mind:
  1. Melt your Earth Balance before unrolling the phyllo and keep it close at hand.
  2. Work with only 3-4 sheets at once.
  3. Work quickly but keep calm and phyllo on.
  4. Keep any unused phyllo covered with a damp tea towel.
  5. Wen you're done, immediately seal and freeze and leftover phyllo so it doesn't dry out.
  6. Brush your creations with Earth Balance liberally, as opposed to skimpily. It will result in a gorgeous color and lighter texture.

Before I give you the recipe, I'd like to announce the winner of Julie Hasson's Vegan Diner....without further ado.....drumroll....Richa. Congratulations! You will love this book. Please email me at with your mailing address.

Mushroom Cups with Shallots and Sage
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 T nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 medium shallots, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • About 3 cups, sliced mushrooms [any kind]
  • 1 T dried sage
  • About 2 T Earth Balance melted

Makes 6

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin.

In a small bowl, whisk cornstarch and nutritional yeast into milk. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium. Saute shallots and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute until they are soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in milk mixture and sage and lower heat to medium-low. Cook over medium-low until it's as thick as pancake batter, about 10 minutes.

After sauce is done, take out about 3-4 sheets of phyllo. Be sure to cover what you're not using immediately with a damp tea towel. Using kitchen scissors, cut the 3-4 sheet phyllo layer into squares, allowing enough to overlap the tins – roughly 6-inch squares. You'll need 6 squares [each is made from 4 sheets of pastry]. Stuff each square into the muffin tins, as shown. Don't worry about perfection.

Spoon the filling into the cups, as pictured. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden, Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

vegan mofo :: thai-centric mac-n-cheese [video recipe]

When I was in Portland for the VidaVegan Conference in August, Julie Hasson asked me to demo a recipe from my new cookbook for in her killer kitchen. It was my first time cooking in front of a camera – a daunting task – but Julie and her husband/ cameraman/film editor Jay made the entire process stress-free and fun. I won't lie: watching yourself on film is unnerving; you notice every "um," every facial expression, and every hair out of place. Oy! Luckily, Jay's creative editing turned my little "flub" at the end of the clip into a bit of comic relief. 

If you like this clip and recipe, I'd appreciate it if you could like/share/rate it on YouTube. 

Thai-Centric Mac and Cheese
  • 4 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 1 organic red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • Up to 1 T red or yellow curry paste [Optional]
  • 4 T coconut creamer or coconut milk [I recommend So Delicious brand]
  • 1 cup coconut, hemp, soy or rice milk
  • 1 cup nutritional yeast
  • ¼ tsp sea salt, or to taste
Serves 8

Cook macaroni according to package directions, but make sure it is staunchly al dente. It should remain slightly chewy. Drain. Meanwhile, in a food processor, whiz together red pepper, sweet onion and carrot until it almost forms a paste.

In a large sauce or soup pan, heat coconut oil over medium low. Toss in red pepper flakes and curry paste, if using, and cook for 1 minute or so to infuse the oil. Toss in the veggie paste and cook until fragrant and soft, about 7 minutes.

Stir in the milk and the coconut creamer, then whisk in the nutritional yeast. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until it thickens slightly (If you prefer a thicker sauce, simmer slightly longer. If you prefer a thinner sauce, reduce simmer time.)

Add drained pasta to the sauce. Toss to coat and add salt.

Variations: Add 2 cups of any of the following during step 5: steamed broccoli or cauliflower, peas or corn, edamame, or chopped organic spinach.

Friday, October 21, 2011

vegan mofo :: coincedences and win "vegan diner!"

I used frozen blueberries to create Julie's classic, all-in-one-pan cobbler. So much flavor for so little work.

"In mathematics, two angles that are said to coincide fit together perfectly. The word coincidence does not describe luck or mistakes. It describes that which fits together perfectly."– Dr Wayne Dyer

About 5 years ago, a food photographer named Steve Legato shot me [and my ex] for the New York Times. Words and wine flowed like water, and Steve immediately felt like an old friend. He introduced me to my agent, which helped lead to my first –and second – cookbooks. Flash forward a few years later. My friend, vegan cooking goddess Julie Hasson, asked me to write a blurb for her fabulous new cookbook, Vegan Diner. Around the same time, I was surprised to run into Steve in my hallway. As it turned out, he had moved his photography studio from across town into my loft building, just a floor below me.

When Julie's book came out earlier this year, she sent me a copy. I paged through and noticed Steve's name in the photo credits; he did all of Julie's photography, just a floor below me, while I was writing a blurb for the very same book. I couldn't believe it. Ironically, Steve and I were chatting in the hallway last week when I received the advance copy of Celebrate Vegan. [Just two more weeks, kids!] Coincidence? Yes, according to the above definition. It made sense that he should see it come full circle. 

Coincidentally (!), it's time for another giveaway contest! Isn't Vegan Mofo fun? If you'd like to enter to win a copy of Vegan Diner, please leave a comment with your favorite vegan diner food [US residents only, please. Sorry but these are the rules specified by Julie's publisher.]. I'll announce a winner in the next few days. In the meantime, try Julie's recipe for Easy Blackberry Skillet Pie. It's the quintessential autumnal dessert– sweet, warming and comforting.

Easy Blackberry Skillet Pie from Vegan Diner [Reprinted with permission by author and publisher]

  • 6 cups frozen blackberries (or other berries)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 T non-hydrogenated vegan margarine [eg, Earth Balance], melted
Makes 1 pie

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 10-inch cast-iron or ovenproof skillet or glass or ceramic pie.
  2. Filling: In a saucepan, combine berries, sugar and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium, stirring occasionally.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 5T water until smooth. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the hot berries, and simmer until thick and mixture is clear, stirring continuously.
  4. Remove from heat and scoop the mixture into the prepared pan.
  5. Topping: In a small bowl, mix together the flour, oats, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Add melted margarine, stirring until incorporated. Using your fingertips, work the margarine into the flour mixture, squeezing until nice and crumbly.
  6. Sprinkle topping over filling and bake for about 20 minutes or until topping is nicely browned.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

vegan mofo :: gluten-free raspberry-cornmeal muffins

No gluten in these feather-light breakfast muffins
I'm very lucky to not have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease. But I still think the standard American diet– even the standard vegan American diet – contains too much wheat, so I try to rotate my grains and flours. These easy corn muffins are polka-dotted with cheerful, ruby-red raspberries, A hit of powdered ginger infuses them with a slightly spicy heat, which is a nice contrast against the sweetness of the cornmeal and sugar. You can also use blueberries, but I think raspberries make for a prettier and less conventional muffin.

Gluten-free Raspberry-Corn Muffins
  • 1  cup almond milk [Or any non-dairy milk]
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup gluten-free flour [I used sweet white sorghum flour]
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 T gluten-free baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 T ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup raspberries [If using frozen, do not thaw]
Makes 12 muffins
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 6-muffin tins with papers, or spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, add vinegar to milk. Set aside and allow to curdle.
  3. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  4. Add oil to milk and vinegar and stir. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Gently stir in the rasberries, then divide batter between the muffin tins.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before eating to avoid "crumblage."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

vegan mofo :: baked apple-dijon tofu and "30-day vegan challenge" winner!

Start this easy tofu marinade in the morning before you leave for work, and bake it when you come home.
I adore the signature, hot-sweet-sour essence of Southeast Asian dishes. This flavor trinity inspired me to create this easy, fusion baked tofu. The sweet comes from apple juice and agave nectar, sour from apple cider vinegar and Dijon mustard, and heat from garlic, ginger and a glob of your favorite hot sauce [I love Sriracha ] This takes 15 minutes of hands-on time, tops; I am really into easy meals, lately – as I'm sure you all are.

Before I give you the recipe, I'd like to announce, without further ado, the winner of The 30-Day Vegan Challenge. Congratulations.....[drumroll]....Bev, the vegan wannabe! Bev, please email me at with your mailing address. Thanks to everyone who entered. Watch for more cool giveaways during the remaining days of VeganMofo.

Baked Apple-Dijon Tofu

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice
  • 3 T agave nectar
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1/2 T hot sauce [or to taste]
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds, divided
  • 1 pound of extra-firm tofu, pressed, and sliced into 4 steaks

Serves 4

In a large glass baking dish, whisk together juice, agave nectar, vinegar, soy sauce, hot sauce, olive oil, mustard, garlic, ginger and 1/2 of the sesame seeds. Place the tofu in the marinade. Flip, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes, Remove from oven and gently flip tofu. Scatter remaining sesame seeds on top of tofu steaks, pressing down slightly with the back of a spoon. Bake 10-15 more minutes. Scrape up any remaining sauce to serve alongside the tofu.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

vegan mofo :: curry-roasted cauliflower

This easy side showcases bold flavors and only takes about 10 minutes of hands-on time. 

Roasting cauliflower is not only super easy and flexible; it also gives the cauliflower a firmer, more toothsome texture. If you want a Caribbean-Style dish, add curry powder, which usually hails from the islands. For a Thai-centric dish, use curry paste. If you want to make an Indian style side, substitute garam masala. You can also substitute broccoli or romanesco for the cauliflower.

Curry-Roasted Cauliflower

  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into 1- or 1 1/2-inch florets
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk. If you want a creamier, wetter dish, you can use up to 1 cup [light is fine]
  • 2 tsp curry powder, curry paste or garam masala [or to taste]
  • Salt, to taste

Serves 2-3

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk and curry paste or powder. Place cauliflower florets in a roasting pan [I used a 9' x 13' Pryex dish]. Pour 1/2 the coconut milk mixture over them and stir well to coat, making sure they are in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt.

Roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, coat with remaining coconut milk mixture, stir, scarping up any browned bits, and roast for another 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, Cool 5 minutes before enjoying.

Pan cleaning tip: Any recipe that requires you to roast veggies inevitably results in a messy pan. Soak the cooled pan in soapy water, then clean it the way your great-grandma would have--make a paste with salt and baking soda, then apply elbow grease.

Friday, October 14, 2011

vegan mofo :: win "30-day vegan challenge!"

Colleen's Cinnamon Coffee Cake is just one of the fabulous recipes featured in the 30-Day Vegan Challenge 

The lovely Colleen Patrick-Goudreau was among the many inspiring authors I met at the Vida Vegan Blogging Conference. I've been a fan of Colleen's since her pivotal The Joy of Vegan Baking was published a few years back. She is passionate about animal rights, and her newest cookbook, The 30-Day Vegan Challenge is a testament to her dedication. It overflows with yummy recipes, as well as practical tips, advice and information for new vegans, the vegan curious, and for those transitioning to a plant-based diet.

Want to win Colleen's new cookbook? If you're already vegan, leave a comment with a tip for new vegans. If you're a new vegan or veg-curious, leave a comment about why you're going or heading vegan. A winner will be chosen in the next few days.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

vegan mofo :: pink ribbon risotto

Think pink. Try my Breast Cancer Awareness Risotto.
Besides being Vegan Mofo, October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I've never been a "rah-rah" joiner of causes. But since my oldest sister, Babs, and several of my good friends are breast cancer survivors, I'm sucking it up in their honor and am hopping on the "think pink" bandwagon, for at least a day.

Although I'm smitten with the earthy-sweet flavor of beets, I must admit that I love them, first and foremost, for their ability to naturally impart foods with a vibrant, Schiaparelli-pink hue. It's hard not to smile when faced with a plate of flaming pink rice! Although this easy risotto tastes rich and comforting – perfect for a chilly fall night – it's deceptively low in fat [less than 5 grams per serving].

Confession: Being a connoisseur of groan-inducing puns, it took everything I had to not title this post "Beet Breast Cancer."

Pink Ribbon Risotto

  • 1 small red beet
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 T  olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice [Important: use Arborio. Other varieties won't work for risotto]
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine [Optional]
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Serves 4

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Wrap beet in foil, place on a cookie sheet, and bake for 30-45 minutes, or until soft. Remove foil, peel and chop finely. Set aside. Be careful: beet juice will stain countertops and clothing.  [Time- and energy-saving tip: I bake several beets at once, and use the rest to make borscht or to slice for salads]

Warm stock over medium in a medium saucepan.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium. Add garlic and onion and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Cook about 1 minute, then add the wine, if using, or a ladle of warm stock. Stir. Turn heat to medium low.

Once most of the stock is absorbed, add the beets and another ladle of stock. Stir and cook until the stock is almost absorbed. Continue in this manner, adding stock, a ladle at a time, stirring occasionally and cooking until stock is absorbed, until the rice reaches your desired consistency –about 30-40 minutes.

Adjust seasonings and serve warm.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

vegan mofo :: lemony raw kale salad recipe

Kale makes a crunchy, flavor-packed salad base
As I mentioned in my last post on anemic produce, these days, many supermarket lettuces taste frighteningly neutral and lack varietal individuality. Since a stellar salad requires an assertive base, I've been foregoing box-shop lettuces for flavor-packed baby organic spinach, baby greens, arugula, mâche or frisée. This has been my pattern, as of late. And we all need to break out of patterns, right?

Most people, myself included, tend to view kale as a vegetable that should be cooked. But if you chop kale finely enough, its slightly bitter aroma and stalwart crunch makes it a primo fresh salad base. And unlike lettuce-based salads, you can make a kale-based salad ahead of time without worrying about it wilting [perfect for picnics and packed lunches]. In fact, I recommend making this salad a day or so ahead, so the kale has time to absorb the bright citrus essence. You can also stretch it out by adding fresh greens just before serving, like baby spinach. This recipe takes a whopping 10 minutes of hands-on time. [Take that, Rachel Ray.]

Lemony Raw Kale Salad
  • 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T nama shoyu or soy sauce
  • Juice and zest of one organic lemon
  • 5 scallions including greens, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 T agave nectar
  • 1 bunch of kale, destemmed and finely chopped [1-inch pieces, or smaller]
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 T sesame seeds, or more, to taste
Serves 4

In a large bowl, whisk together oil, nama shoyu, lemon zest and juice, scallions, garlic and agave nectar. Toss in the kale and stir well to coat. Adjust seasonings. Ideally, let in marinate in the 'fridge overnight. Just before serving, toss in sesame seeds.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

vegan mofo :: "stepford" produce and contest winner

Organic produce from small farms looks better and tastes better

"Stepford" Produce
During my childhood, the flavor of fresh garden tomatoes – tangy, sweet, acidic – made my palate perform backflips of happiness. A sweet-tart apple induced bona-fide puckers, and snap peas tasted smiley-face sweet. These days, most supermarket tomatoes register as neutral as cucumbers. And increasingly, mealy apples, pears, bananas and snap peas don't taste much different than potatoes. Big-agriculture lettuce varieties have also recently lost their subtle but distinguishing flavors.

Why? Much supermarket produce has been cross-bred to create varieties that are humongous, look pretty and ship well. In other words, they are all style and no substance. [Can you say "cha-ching?"]. Since they have lost all elements of their individuality, I call these fruits and veggies "Stepford produce."

Contrast this with the veggies in my CSA share [Wimer's Organics]. They are alive with flavor and color. The carrots might not be the biggest, most perfect-looking carrots, but they are sweet, tender and chemical-free. Do they cost more than imported, supermarket veggies? Yes, slightly more. But I'm getting what I pay for: organic, local, flavor-packed produce. Plus, I feel better knowing that my hard-earned money is supporting a hard-working small farm and not an omnipresent, big agriculture conglomerate. So don't just buy [or grow your own!] local organic out of a crunchy sense of obligation. There's something in it for you, too – more taste and less chemicals.

Contest Winner
Thanks to everyone who entered. And the winner of Bryanna's new cookbook, World Vegan Feast, is....[drumroll]....KellyC. Please email me at "" with your address, and we'll get a cookbook sent out pronto.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

vegan mofo :: 21 pesto ideas and universal pesto recipe

Rosemary pesto over brown rice fusili

Modular recipes are empowering. They not only teach you how to cook, as opposed to blindly following recipes, but they also give you the courage and impetus to ad-lib in the kitchen. Not surprisingly, most of us equate pesto with traditional basil-and-pine-nut variety. But remove the rules [which you have to understand before breaking], and infinitesimal pesto variations suddenly appear. In the spirit of improvisation, I give you this modular pesto recipe, as well as 21 ideas to get you started on your personal pesto journey.

Pesto Uses
The most popular and obvious pesto use is as a pasta sauce, but pesto also makes an unusual sandwich condiment and a soup topper. A dollop of pesto adds a certain je ne sais quoi and surprise layer of complexity to many entrees. Think, traditional pesto in ratatouille or sun-dried tomato pesto in risotto. But wait, there's more: Pestos also make excellent, flavor-dense salad dressing bases and marinades for tofu, tempeh, seitan and veggies.

Pre-pesto CSA rosemary 
Universal Pesto
  • Up to 1/2 cup best-quality olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced plus
  • 2 cups of fresh herbs, dried fruits or fresh (or cooked) vegetables
  • 1/4 cup nuts
  • Nutritional yeast, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Makes a scant 2 cups

Process everything in a food processor until smooth [or smooth-ish, depending on the items you use]. You can easily double or triple the recipe. Freeze leftover pesto in ice cube trays or small containers.

21 Pesto Ideas
  1. I must state the obvious, since it's a classic: basil and pine nuts.
  2. Sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, and a bit of lemon zest [A traditional recipe appears in my first cookbook, The Urban Vegan]
  3. Rosemary and walnuts. Wonderful over pasta topped with nutritional yeast, but a little goes a very long way.
  4. Winter pesto: spinach, walnuts/pine nuts [A traditional recipe appears in my first cookbook, The Urban Vegan]
  5. Sage, smoked paprika and toasted almonds. Again, a little goes a very long way.
  6. Sofrito pesto: Cilantro, parsley, green pepper, hot pepper flakes, lime zest and almonds.
  7. Pesto Mexicano: Grilled poblano peppers, walnuts and a dash of hot sauce. Great in enchiladas or as a topping.
  8. Mint pesto: peppermint, lemon zest, and pine nuts. Great add-in or sauce for couscous dishes.
  9. Polish: Dill, white pepper. walnuts
  10. Arugula, pine nut/walnut combination, lemon zest.
  11. Quasi-tapenade: Olives, walnuts, lemon zest and hot pepper flakes.
  12. Edamame pesto: Cooked edamame, cashews, ginger, and a splash of soy sauce.
  13. Peas-sto [Groan]: Cooked peas, walnut/pinenut combo
  14. Red pepper pesto: roasted red peppers, walnuts, orange or lemon zest. Wonderful over pasta.
  15. Tempeh pesto: basil, steamed crumbled tempeh, pistachios
  16. Vietnamese: Ginger, basil, soy sauce, splash of rice vinegar
  17. Asparagus pesto, recipe idea from Mark Bittman
  18. Sate pesto: Red curry paste, basil and creamy peanut butter. Skip olive oil.
  19. Pumpkin: Pureed, unsweetened pumpkin, walnuts, pinch of nutmeg. Great with risotto.
  20. Fennel: Fennel fronds, almonds, lemon zest. A lovely, subtle licorice flavor,
  21. Nutella-inspired pesto: Skip the garlic, salt, pepper and nooch. Use melted dark chocolate chips, hazlenuts, and just a bit of canola oil, if needed. Obviously, this is a dessert sauce, but try it over pasta if you feel so compelled.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

vegan mofo :: wild rice salad with radishes, scallions and mint

Organic CSA share radishes.

I love everything about radishes – from their insouciant heat and candy-cane colors to their sturdy crunch and voluptuous figures. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to find these flaming bulbs of happiness nestled at the bottom of my CSA share bag. As always, my share included a bevy of other produce delights, including a fragrant bunch of mint and a battalion of scallions. For Vegan Mofo, I wanted to take a culinary risk and create a meal-in-a-salad that paired these seemingly disharmonious herbs and veggies. I liked the idea of the cool mint playing against the scallion's and radish's inherent heat. And I decided that a grain and chickpea base with a citrusy dressing would make a forgiving, neutral base to temper all these elements. I used red rice from Camargue  that I bought last year in Paris; it's rather starchy and somewhat chewy. But you can use any wild rice you like, or even brown rice.

This easy salad is a meal in a bowl, perfect to pack for weekday lunches.

 Wild Rice Salad with Radishes, Scallions and Mint

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Zest of one organic orange
  • Juice of 1/2 an orange [About 1/4 cup]
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
  • 1 cup thinly sliced radishes
  • 1 cup sliced scallions--about 4 scallions [include the greens]
  • 1 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • About 1 tsp cumin
Serves 8
  1. Cook rice in broth according to package directions. 
  2. Meanwhile, combine olive oil, orange zest and juice, ginger and garlic in a large, non-reactive bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Toss in the rice. Adjust seasonings. Allow to sit about 3 hours before serving so the flavors can meld.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

vegan mofo :: win bryanna's cookbook, try bryanna's salad

I've been a fan of Bryanna Clark Grogan for years and finally got a chance to meet her and hang out with her at the Vida Vegan Conference. She is a lovely, down-to-earth person and a wealth of information, positivity, and of course, of vegan recipes.

A surplus of CSA share organic carrots inspired me to try a recipe from Bryanna's newest cookbook, World Vegan Feast. Besides being tasty and a whiz to prepare, her Glazed Moroccan Carrot Salad [see below for recipe] also happens to be gluten-free.

Here's your chance to win a copy of World Vegan Feast. Simply leave a comment with your favorite food from a country other than your own. Bryanna and I will choose a winner in the next few days. In the meantime, do try the salad. You won't be sorry.

Glazed Moroccan Carrot Salad from World Vegan Feast

  • 1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • Juice of 1 large lemon [about 5 T]
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T minced parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp fresh-ground pepper
  • Garnish: 4-6 strips of Moroccan Preserved Lemon
    or long shreds of organic lemon zest
1. Steam the carrot matchsticks until crisp-tender. Transfer them to a colander and cool them off under cold running water. Drain well.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the remaining ingredients and then toss with the carrots. Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with the preserved lemon peel or zest. Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

vegan mofo :: noochy broccoli

Noochy Broccoli is a versatile side and a fun way to get kids [and picky adults] to eat their greens.

Of course, raw or lightly steamed vegetables are the most nutritious. This recipe from my new cookbook, however, requires you to cook the heck out of the broccoli in order to achieve a pureed texture. So consider it a guilty veggie pleasure. Despite the mush factor [which instantly makes this recipe kid-friendly], this cheesy broccoli mash is still a nutritional powerhouse, when compared, say, to the kinds of side dishes most people eat.  This is also an excellent, simple-to-prepare pasta and grain topper or dip. Depending on how much olive oil you use [if any], this dish can range from no-or-low fat to mildly decadent. Either way, this side is rich and filling.

Noochy Broccoli
  • 1 large bunch of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 T soy sauce [Use more or less depending on salt content of your broth]
  • Up to ½ cup broth
  • Red pepper flakes [Optional]
  • Up to 1 T olive oil [Optional]
  • 4-5 T nutritional yeast
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Serves 4 as a side

Bring about ¼ cup of broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Toss in broccoli, garlic, soy sauce, and red pepper, if using. Cover, lower heat to a simmer and steam-simmer for about 25 minutes or until completely mushy. (Check liquid level from time to time; you may need to add more broth.)

Pour everything into a food processor. Sprinkle in nutritional yeast and begin processing. Depending on your preferences, add more broth and/or olive oil until this mash reaches your desired consistency. (For a thicker mash, pulse and don’t add much liquid. For a saucier puree, process well and add enough liquid to make this puree smooth.)

Variations: Substitute cauliflower, broccoli rabe or brocco-flower for broccoli.