Crunchy “Asian” Slaw

Crunchy “Asian” Slaw

This past weekend I decided to make my Sticky Asian Ribs, corn on the cob and this Crunchy “Asian” Slaw. Dessert was my Blueberry Galette. While “Asian” wasn’t in quotes for my rib recipe, it probably should have been. Both my ribs and this delightful coleslaw are certainly Asian-inspired, but I sincerely doubt that either would qualify as an authentic Asian recipe. Crunchy “Asian” Slaw is a no-fuss, delicious side that we all will want this summer.

Anyone who reads my blog knows that when I am making food from a particular culture and cuisine, I go to great lengths to buy the right herbs and spices. And I always search for reputable sources for my recipes and try hard to honor and respect these heritages. But there are also times when it is fun to go off book and to create dishes that give you a certain flavor profile without slavishly being authentic.

I’m not a big fan of creamy, mayonnaisy coleslaw. It has its place but it’s often just a bit too much for me. So when I knew that I was making the ribs, I wanted to find a recipe that was a bit lighter and would compliment the star anise and ginger flavors in the ribs. I also wanted it to be easy. With a few minutes spent surfing the web, I came across this recipe and decided to give it a try. Now I hope that you will too.

So if you are looking for a riff on coleslaw to serve at your next barbeque or with some grilled or roasted meat or fish, give this Crunchy “Asian” Slaw a try. It will work with any kind of slaw that you like. I chose a broccoli carrot slaw, but any cabbage or crunchy vegetables will work. The prep is minimal and the slaw will keep for several days in the fridge. And with more time spent outside, isn’t it great to be able to reach in your fridge for a delicious side that’s all ready to eat. This slaw will brighten up any simple meal. Now that summer is here, who wants to spend lots of time in the kitchen cooking? Haven’t we all done plenty of that over the past year?

For another great coleslaw, try my Holiday Coleslaw.

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

For the Coleslaw

1 pound shredded crisp veggies (cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, snow peas etc.) or packaged coleslaw mix (any kind)

3 scallions, sliced on an angle

About 1 cup chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

For the Dressing

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar (I decided to use brown rice vinegar, but any kind will work)

3 Tablespoons maple syrup, agave, or brown rice syrup

1 Tablespoon soy sauce or tamari

1 large garlic clove, crushed or grated

1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger root

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes or chili paste (Optional)

Toppings

2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Roasted peanuts or cashews

Directions

Toss slaw ingredients in a bowl. Add the chopped cilantro and scallions. Pour the dressing over everything and toss to combine. Garnish with the seeds and/or nuts. Now enjoy!

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji with basmati rice or flatbread makes a satisfying vegan meal – full of umami. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I am neither a vegan nor a vegetarian. However, we don’t eat a lot of meat and I cannot remember the last time I sat down and ate a steak. This doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t want visually interesting meals with a great mouthfeel and full of flavor. Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to both Mediterranean/Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. Their use of fresh herbs, vegetables and spices make any meal a feast for the senses.

What is Sabji?

A sabji is simply a vegetable cooked in some sort of gravy with herbs. Sabji literally means green vegetable. In Persian cooking it is referred to as sabzi and can include meat as in Ghormeh Sabzi or chicken in this version. There is no surprise that there are similarities between Persian and Indian culture, which is especially evident in food and architecture. Persia invaded India twice – first in 535 BCE under Cyrus the Great and second under Emperor Nader Shah, the Shah of Persia (1736–47). In fact, many dishes that are thought of as quintessentially Indian actually were adapted from British, Portuguese, Mughal and Persia. Each conqueror brought new flavors and techniques to India. And while each nation ultimately lost India, there influences remain and enrich.

Fan Girl

Recently I have become a fan of Chetna Makan on YouTube and the author of several cookbooks, including Chai, Chaat & Chutney: a street food journey through India, where this Roasted Cauliflower Sabji appears. She is charming and enthusiastic about her dishes and just a delight to watch. It’s not difficult to follow and because I do enjoy Indian and Middle Eastern cooking, I have all of the seasonings on hand. This dish doesn’t require any chilis so it wasn’t necessary for me to tone down the heat. My husband was responsible for making the quick, and flavorful flatbread. I made up some urad dal and we enjoyed a healthy and delicious meatless Monday.

As with many Indian dishes, do not get put off by the relatively long list of ingredients. If you do this kind of cooking, you likely will have most of not all of the spices on hand. And the actual cooking technique is very straightforward.

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji would also make a wonderful side dish or as part of a larger Indian meal. However you decide to use it, I encourage you to make it soon.

There are so many different kinds of dal (legumes, pulses or beans) available. And even more recipes for them. Here are just a few and I will be adding more over time.

Punjabi Chana Dal

Moong Dal and Lemony Ground Lamb

Chana Dal Kichadi

Nutritious Comforting Khichari

Smoky Yellow Split Peas

Red Lentils with Ginger

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings as a main course and more as a side

Ingredients

Roasted Cauliflower Sabji

For the cauliflower

1 head cauliflower cut into small florets along with the stems

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper

About 2 Tablespoons EVOO

For the Sabji

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (I only had brown mustard seeds, so that is what I used)

2 roughly chopped small onions

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and grated

A 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated

2 medium tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon turmeric

Handful of chopped cilantro

Directions

For the Cauliflower

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and have the rack on an upper shelf.
  2. Mix the seasonings together and spread over the cauliflower. Mix it around to coat. Spread on a baking pan and roast for 15 minutes. Turn over the cauliflower pieces and continue roasting for an additional 15 minutes (total 30 minutes). Remove from the oven and set aside.

For the Sabji

  1. In a pan large enough to hold all of the cauliflower and the other ingredients, heat oil. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant and the seeds begin to pop. Add in the chopped onion and stir through. Cook until lightly golden.
  2. Add the grated garlic and ginger and cook for another minute, stirring through.
  3. Add the roughly chopped tomatoes and cook on medium heat until the tomatoes soften and give off their juices. Add the chili powder, garam masala, salt and turmeric. Mix well.
  4. Add the roasted cauliflower and stir through, mixing well but try not to break up the florets. Cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chopped cilantro and stir through.

Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqueca)

Brazilian Fish Stew

Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqueco) is colorful, zippy, and just plain delicious! Full disclosure, though. I am completely unfamiliar with Brazilian cuisine, so I cannot vouch for this recipe’s authenticity. What I can say, is that this simple-to-prepare fish stew is bright, beautiful and relatively inexpensive to make. The fish (pretty much any firm fish, but whitefish, halibut, sea bass and cod are particularly good) is simmered in a fragrant sauce of coconut milk, tomatoes, onions, peppers and lime.

As with many dishes, and this one is no exception, there are many versions and variations. This recipe for Brazilian Fish Stew (Moqueca) originates from Salvador, a bustling coastal city in Brazil, north of Rio. The influences are African, stemming from Brazil’s long history of bringing 4 million slaves to the country over a 300-year period. You can see the African culture in everything from carnival to samba, food and religion. Fifty percent of the Brazilian population now self identifies as Black or mixed race.

Paired with rice and a simple green salad, Moqueca comes together quickly, making it a perfect weeknight meal.

Brazilian Fish Stew

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

Brazilian Fish Stew

1.5 pounds of firm white fish (look for thicker cuts)

1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

Two limes, zest and juice

2 Tablespoons coconut or olive oil (Brazilian red palm oil, if available. I used coconut oil)

1 onion (any kind) finely diced

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or to taste

1 cup diced carrots (about 2 medium)

1 red bell pepper, diced

4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

1 jalapeno, serrano or other chile, finely diced

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin (you could also use the whole seeds)

1 cup fish or chicken stock (I used chicken)

1.5 cups tomatoes, diced (fresh tomatoes are best)

14-ounce can coconut milk (liquids and solids) Do not use “lite” coconut milk.

Brazilian Fish Stew

For Serving

1/2 cup chopped cilantro, flat-leaf parsley or scallions

Additional squeeze of lime

Directions

Rinse and pat dry the fish. Cut into 2-inch chunks. Place the fish in a glass or stainless steel bowl and add the 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 of the zest and 2 Tablespoons of the lime juice. Gently massage into the fish and set it aside.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and additional 1 teaspoon of salt. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the carrot, bell pepper, garlic and jalapeno and cook for 4 to 5 more minutes.

Add the tomato paste, spices and stock. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Now add the tomatoes. Cover and simmer gently on medium low until the carrots are tender, about 8 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and taste, adding more salt if necessary. (I used unsalted stock, so ended up using a 1.5 teaspoons of salt.) Nestle the fish chunks into the sauce and simmer gently until the fish is cooked through, spooning the sauce over the fish occasionally. How long it takes to cook will depend on the thickness of the fish, how long it sat in the salt and lime juice and how well-cooked you like it. As with ceviche, the salt and lime juice begin to “cook” the fish in the brine. I like my fish to be cooked through but not dry. Check it after about 8 minutes.

Serve over rice and add the garnish and the remaining lime zest and juice. Now enjoy!

The Juliana

The Juliana

The Juliana is simply the best blueberry pancake bar none that you will ever eat. Not quite a Dutch baby; it doesn’t poof up and then sink. This no-fuss, no-flip skillet-to-oven pancake requires no syrup or other additions. The powdered sugar is for presentation but is not necessary for taste. It’s all there in one pan. Ultimate deliciousness! The Juliana has gone through many iterations to achieve this level of blueberry perfection.

I absolutely love breakfast food for dinner. However, unless I have a full day of hiking ahead of me, I just find most brunch foods too heavy for me to start the day with. But at dinner, I actually almost feel virtuous eating this fruit-forward pancake. And it is so satisfying at every level for me that I never crave any dessert or anything else after eating it. My husband, Andrew, developed this over many months of trial. The recipe began with an Apple Dutch Baby that morphed into this spectacular recipe. My only problem is getting him to stop tinkering with it! Although I do admit that the addition of jaggery in place of granulated sugar in the batter, did take it up a notch. But even without it, this pancake is better than any blueberry pancake or Dutch Baby you will ever eat.

The Juliana

I’m not prone to exaggeration or hyperbole in my posts. Therefore, when I gush about The Juliana (named for our first grandchild) you know it is truly something special. Andrew has successfully made this with strawberries and apples although with a few slight differences, especially since the fruit all cooks differently. The resulting “pancake” is wonderfully spongy, light and fluffy. It is perfect for absorbing all the fruity deliciousness below. And as I mentioned in another post, blueberries have been just wonderful this year. They not only are large and visually attractive but they are firm and very flavorful. They also happen to be our Juliana’s favorite fruit – at least for now. Give this a try. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

The Juliana

Recipe

Yield: 2 to 4 servings (it should be 4 servings, but if I am honest, my husband and I eat the whole thing ourselves for dinner!)

Ingredients

The Juliana

  For the blueberry filling

    1/3 cup granulated sugar

    Zest of 1 medium lemon

    1 box (18 oz.) of blueberries, rinsed, drained and patted dry

    3 tbsp unsalted butter

  For the batter

    1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

    1 tsp baking powder

    1/8 tsp baking soda

    1 tbsp granulated sugar (or 1 tbsp jaggery)

    ½ tsp kosher salt

    ½ tsp ground cardamom

    4 large eggs

    1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup plain kefir)

    1 tsp vanilla extract

  For serving (optional, but recommended) Sifted confectioner’s or icing sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F with the rack in the center

Blueberry filling

Place 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon onto the sugar. Stir the zest and sugar together; or, rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until fully combined and gritty. If no one is watching, then by all means, lick your fingers. Take out 2 tablespoons of the lemon sugar to use later.

Add the blueberries to the bowl and toss to combine. Reserve ½ cup of the sugared blueberries to mix into the batter later.

Batter

1. Place 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp granulated sugar (or 1 tbsp jaggery), ½ tsp kosher salt, and ½ tsp ground cardamom in a bowl and whisk to combine.

2. In a different bowl add 4 large eggs and whisk until frothy. Add 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup plain kefir) and 1 tsp vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

3. Gently add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring the batter just enough to get everything moist, then gently stir in the reserved ½ cup of sugared blueberries, trying not to break them up.

4. Put a 9” cast iron skillet on the stove on medium heat. Cut 3 tbsp of unsalted butter into 3 pieces and put them into the skillet. Just melt the butter, do not brown it. Immediately add the sugared blueberries, then sprinkle the reserved lemon sugar mixture on top.

5. Pour the batter all over the berries. Place the skillet in the oven, baking at 400°F until puffed and golden-brown, about 20 minutes.

The Juliana

6. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve dusted with powdered sugar.

The Juliana

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Creamy Mushroom Soup

This Creamy Mushroom Soup is simple, satisfying and sophisticated. Delicious! I came across this recipe just in time. I made it when the temperatures were in the negative numbers (that’s below zero Fahrenheit, guys) we needed soup – hot, soothing, yummy soup.

However, now that we have had a bit of a warm-up and some hopeful signs of Spring, I still want this soup. And this Creamy Mushroom Soup will be delightful in the fall, winter and spring. I tend to move into cold soups in the summer, but this one is light enough that I might just give it a try.

Creamy Mushroom Soup came together quickly and luckily I had all of the ingredients on hand. It can be prepared ahead if you like, but is ready in less than an hour. I served it with a wonderful rustic bread that I had made, a lovely, bright salad and some ripe cheese. A glass of a delicious red wine was the perfect complement. After this, we only had room for some wonderful Clementines which seem to be at their best right now. Citrus fruits are winter’s sunshine. Juicy, bright with just the right amount of tang.

Mixed Salad

While not vegan, this recipe is vegetarian unless you choose to use chicken stock for the liquid. If you did want to make it vegan, I could see adding some cooked, pureed cauliflower, full-fat coconut milk or silken tofu to replace the cream. It wouldn’t be exactly the same but should be pretty close to the right mouthfeel, texture and taste. If you try it, let me know how it works out.

Onion Nigella Caraway Rustic Bread

Now my husband and I ate this as our main course, but it is simple enough to make and elegant enough to be served as a first course as well.

There are many different kinds of mushrooms – both fresh and dried – available these days. The dried porcini have a meaty texture when rehydrated and a robust flavor. And I used 1 pound of baby bella mushrooms, but cremini or even mixed mushrooms should all work. Each different kind will change the flavor somewhat, but they all should make for an interesting soup. The addition of a good glug of sherry at the end is a suggestion, but one that I strongly encourage. It just elevates the flavors.

I didn’t do this, but….. if you really want to tart things up, you could add a dollop of crème fraiche with a few chopped chives sprinkled on top just before serving. However you decide to serve this delicious soup, do make it soon. Any leftovers can be refrigerated and gently reheated.

Recipe

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Creamy Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1.5 cups boiling water

2 shallots or 1 medium yellow onion

2 cloves of garlic

4 Tablespoons of butter (or buttery vegan spread)

1 pound cremini or baby bella mushrooms, sliced

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

3 Tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

4 cups low sodium or unsalted vegetable or chicken broth

2 Tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)

1/2 cup heavy (double) cream

A good glug of dry sherry (Optional, but highly recommended)

Directions

  1. Place 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms in a medium heatproof bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Soak until mostly softened, at least 15 minutes, but longer is fine. Meanwhile, finely dice the shallots or onion and mince 2 garlic cloves.
  2. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed 3 quart or larger pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and 1 pound sliced fresh mushrooms. Season with 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the mushrooms are softened and have released their juices, 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Line a fine-mesh strainer with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Pour the soaked mushrooms through the strainer into a measuring cup or bowl. Reserve the liquid and coarsely chop the mushrooms (leave behind any grit trapped in the cheesecloth).
  4. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour into the pot and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook until lightly browned, stirring regularly, about 2 minutes. Pour in 4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
  5. Stir in the reserved soaking liquid from the mushrooms, the chopped porcini mushrooms, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons dried thyme, and 2 bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered until the flavor is developed and the soup is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
  6. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Transfer about 2 cups of the soup to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Stir the purée back into the pot. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream.

Twice-Cooked Eggplant Salad

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

Twice-Cooked Eggplant Salad is sweet, smoky, savory and utterly addictive. Personally I have never understood someone who says they won’t eat eggplant (aubergine). There must be literally hundreds, if not thousands of ways to prepare it. And it comes in many shapes, colors and varieties. In my opinion, it is one of the most beautiful and sensuous of vegetables. Although technically a fruit, in everyday usage we refer to it as a vegetable. I haven’t discovered a way yet that I don’t simply love it.

However, if you are one of those people – and you know who you are – this recipe just might make a convert out of even you. This salad is beloved in Israel and is a star at the restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia. Zahav (meaning “gold” in Hebrew) is the brainchild of award-winning Chef Michael Solomonov, who has a cookbook of the same name.

As I have mentioned many times in my blog, Mediterranean food in general and Middle Eastern food specifically, is my very favorite of cuisines. I could, and often do, eat it every day. This cuisine is very veg-forward and makes liberal use of fresh herbs and spices. Whenever possible, I try to grind my spices fresh for both this cuisine and when I make Indian food. The difference is incredible. And with an inexpensive spice or coffee grinder, you can have fresh spices in seconds.

Chef Solomonov is an exciting chef and a charming raconteur. His cookbook is a great read and has some wonderful and vivid food photos, but the recipes or at least the directions are inexact. They don’t always even correspond to the accompanying photos. So it was good when I was thinking of making this recipe that I happened to watch him on YouTube first.

Below is Michael Solomonov’s recipe with my clarifications. It’s a wonderful salad that would be just one of many at any Israeli meal. Salatim is a hallmark of Israeli cuisine and are eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes, I make a meal simply of salatim and a good pita or laffa.

Salatim

The eggplant salad will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, although I think is most flavorful at room temperature. So take it out of the fridge about an hour before you plan to serve it.

You won’t need a lot of ingredients for this recipe. I would use either “Italian” Eggplant or a “Graffiti” Eggplant. Italian is the standard one that most grocery stores carry. You want to choose eggplants that are firm, weigh about 1 pound and have unblemished skins.

While the Zahav recipe calls for sherry vinegar, almost any vinegar can be used. And while I love sherry vinegar, it can be pricey. So feel free to swap it out for a white vinegar or decent red wine vinegar.

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

For some other eggplant dishes (‘Cuz I know that I’m gonna make a fan out of you yet!):

Oven “Fried” Eggplant

Eggplant and Tomato Bake

Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms, Eggplant and Tomatoes

Baked Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Bulghur

Eggplant Pâté (Bharta)

Baked Pasta in Eggplant: Pasta Incaciata

Eggplant stuffed with Ground Lamb

Eggplant Raita Middle Eastern Style

Eggplant and Beef Albondigas

Lamb and Eggplant Casserole

Greek Eggplant Dip: Melitzanosalata

Savory Galette with Eggplant, Zucchini and Feta

Indian-Spiced Chicken with Mixed Veg

Recipe

Yield: About 5 cups

Ingredients

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

2 Medium eggplants, peeled and cut into thick rounds

2 Tablespoons kosher salt

About 6 Tablespoons Canola Oil (You can use Olive Oil but it has a lower smoke-point and will burn more easily)

1 cup chopped red, yellow or orange bell pepper

1 cup chopped onion

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika

1/4 cup vinegar (Sherry is ideal but any decent vinegar will do)

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

A few cracks of black pepper

Directions

Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant rounds with the kosher salt. Place them on a rack over a tray or on top of paper towels to absorb the bitter liquid as it drains. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes but up to overnight.

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

Add oil to film the bottom of a large, heavy skillet. I didn’t have non-stick, which is preferable, but you can use well-seasoned cast iron. Set over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering but not smoking, add the eggplant rounds. (Blot off any liquid first!) Avoid over-crowding the pan and work in batches if necessary. Cook until almost black on the first side, about 10 minutes. Turn and repeat on the second side, adding more oil if necessary. Remove the eggplant to a plate. As you can see, mine aren’t perfect, but you are going for the round in the bottom right foreground. Yep, that one!

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

Either in the same pan or in a largish saucepan, add 2 Tablespoons of oil. You could use Canola here as well, but olive oil would be the better choice. You are no longer frying anything so the high smoke point isn’t essential and the olive oil lends a better flavor.

Add the bell pepper, onion and spices and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft but not brown – about 10 minutes.

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

Now add the eggplant back to the pan along with the vinegar. Using a wooden spoon, mash up the eggplant coarsely as it cooks until everything combines. Continue to cook until the vinegar has evaporated. This takes about 8 minutes.

Twice-Cooked Eggplant

Turn the heat off and add the lemon juice and parsley and mix through. You shouldn’t need any additional salt since we never rinsed the salt off of the eggplants in the beginning. But a few cracks of black pepper never went amiss.

Ginger Coconut Tofu with Cashews and Blistered Sugar Snap Peas

Ginger Coconut Tofu with Cashews and Blistered Sugar Snap Peas

Ginger Coconut Tofu with Cashews and Blistered Sugar Snap Peas – the name says it all. If you are looking for a fresh, bright, vegan dinner option, you can’t go wrong with this dish. All it needs to dress it up is some simply steamed rice or other grain of choice. Millet anyone?

I came across this recipe and gave it to my husband to prepare. For about 34 years of our 36-year (and counting) marriage, my husband never cooked. Since retirement, though, he has begun baking bread, making pizza from scratch, preparing the absolute best fruity Dutch Babies and making the occasional stir-fry or curry. Andrew has now added Ginger Coconut Tofu with Cashews and Blistered Sugar Snap Peas to his repertoire.

While we are definitely omnivores – except for things we simply don’t like – our meals tend to be very veg-forward. And often we enjoy a purely vegan meal. I wish that I could say that I do it for some well-thought-out philosophical and moral stand. But I can’t.

Yes, I have been eating organic and recycling since long before they became fashionable. And, it’s true that I have never been a huge meat eater and gave up on veal about 40 years ago when I read about the inhumane conditions that calves endured. (I have twice eaten veal from farms where calves are humanely raised in the past 5 years.) But mostly I make and serve vegan meals frequently because we like them. And as someone who cooks all of the time, they challenge – and inspire – me to explore new flavors and seasoning.

Unlike TV chefs and most food writers, I’m not going to make orgasmic “Wow, amazing!” faces and noises or say that this is the most incredible thing that I have ever eaten. It isn’t. But I will say that if you are looking for a new, somewhat flexible and relatively easy-to-prepare vegan meal, this is a good place to start. You can swap out the sugar snap peas for asparagus or green beans, if you prefer, or based on what looks best at the market. Next time we make this, mushrooms will be added.

So whether you make this dish in order to feel virtuous (or make your doctor happy) or out of conviction, or simply because you want to try something new and delicious, you can’t go wrong with Ginger Coconut Tofu with Cashews and Blistered Sugar Snap Peas.

Recipe

Yield: 3 to 4 servings

Ingredients

Ginger Coconut Tofu with Cashews and Blistered Sugar Snap Peas

1 (14 -ounce) block of firm or extra-firm tofu, drained

3 Tablespoons neutral oil (we used Canola) plus more if needed

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

About 12 ounces of fresh sugar snap peas (if you want more, go for it)

About 2 Tablespoons fresh ginger root, peeled and grated (I prefer grating my own, but sometimes, you go with what you have even if it means out of a jar.)

2 large garlic cloves, grated or crushed

1 can (13 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk

1 Tablespoon soy sauce (I always use low-sodium)

1 Tablespoon full-bodied molasses or dark brown sugar

1/2 cup toasted cashews

1 Tablespoon rice vinegar

4 to 6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn if large

Red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)

Directions

Slice the tofu in half horizontally and leave on paper or tea towels to dry well. (If you prefer, you can also press the tofu for 30 minutes under a weighted plate.) The tofu needs to be dry to get a good browning.

Once dry, cut the tofu into cubes about 1 to 1.5 inches in size. Season the tofu with salt and black pepper.

In a large skillet (cast iron is great here) or wok, heat 1 Tablespoon of oil over medium high heat until it begins to shimmer. Place the tofu cubes in the pan and sear the pieces on each side. Don’t move them around a lot or you won’t get good color. This can take about 12 minutes and is the fussiest part of the recipe. Once browned, remove the tofu to a plate.

Ginger Coconut Tofu with Cashews and Blistered Sugar Snap Peas

Add another Tablespoon of oil to the pan and add the snap peas (or asparagus or green beans). Cook, stirring occasionally until the snap peas are blistered and tender – 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper to taste and set aside.

Ginger Coconut Tofu with Cashews and Blistered Sugar Snap Peas

Toss the peas with the rice vinegar, scallions, mint and red pepper flakes, if using.

Ginger Coconut Tofu with Cashews and Blistered Sugar Snap Peas

Heat the remaining Tablespoon of oil and add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Do not burn! Pour in the coconut milk, soy sauce and molasses. Simmer, stirring frequently until the sauce reduces some, and its color deepens. This takes between 6 to 8 minutes. The sauce should begin to coat a spoon. Now stir in the cashews, add back the tofu and toss until everything is well coated with the sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste, if necessary. Serve over rice or other grain alongside the sugar snap peas.

NOTE: Raw cashews can be toasted in a 350 degree F. oven on an ungreased sheet pan. Toast until you just begin to smell them. This takes about 12 to 15 minutes. Check them after 10 minutes. You can also toast them in a dry skillet on top of the stove, moving them around frequently. Once nuts burn, they are pretty useless, so go by look and smell. And know that nothing happens, nothing happens – and then boom! they are brown.

Chickpea Quinoa Burgers

Chickpea Quinoa Burger

Chickpea Quinoa Burgers are a delicious, satisfying and healthy riff on falafel. No frying necessary. For those of you who are meat-eaters, this will not replace a beef burger. Anyone who tells you differently is lying. But here’s the thing – it doesn’t have to. It’s wonderful in its own right.

This is an amazingly delicious veggie burger that is easy to prepare and jam-packed with flavor. And while I made it with more or less falafel seasonings, you can endlessly riff on that. The quinoa not only acts as a binder, making an egg unnecessary, but it makes for a complete protein with the chickpeas.

I like to buy organic dried chickpeas in bulk and cook them as needed. Along with grinding many of my own spices, I’ve been cooking up my own beans over the past year or so. The flavors and textures are so within my control and they are just so much more intense. However, do feel free to use canned chickpeas here if you want. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, where legumes are such an essential part of your diet, make sure that the beans you buy are organic.

Okay, thus ends my preaching for the day!

So with all of the veggie burgers out there, why should you make this Chickpea Quinoa Burger? Well let me count the ways: 1) it’s really delicious; 2) it’s easy to make; 3) the mixture can be made ahead and refrigerated for as much as a couple of days before cooking; 4) it’s healthy; 5) it’s inexpensive; 6) there are almost endless riffs on the spices that you could do to tailor it to your tastes and 7) did I say that it’s REALLY delicious?

My husband and I are not vegetarian, but I have never been a huge meat eater. Now while Andrew was, he has learned to love and appreciate a more veg-forward diet. Growing up, we were more limited on fresh vegetable options and only those which were in season. While there is something to be said for eating fruits and veg in season, in this global economy and with modern farming methods, we are able to have an incredibly varied diet all year.

One of the many things I love about this recipe is that no special equipment or techniques are necessary for making successful Chickpea Quinoa Burgers. It is helpful to have a food processor which makes putting the mixture together a snap. But you could mash the chickpeas by hand and finely chop everything else if you didn’t have one. More tedious and time-consuming for sure, but doable.

These burgers can be pan-fried or baked in the oven. Unlike some veggie burgers I have tried, these hold together well when cooking. How you garnish your burgers is entirely up to you and your imagination. If you want to keep things vegan, I would suggest a simple tahini sauce to go on your buns or directly on the burger if you are foregoing the bread. If you are willing to use dairy, I would suggest a yogurt sauce with fresh coriander (cilantro) and mint, some ground cumin, garlic and lemon or lime juice. A sriracha mayo would also be delicious.

Crown the burgers with slices of onion, pickles and lettuce. Sides could be as simple as chips or for more variety, try some oven-roasted sweet potato tossed with a little maple syrup, salt, hot pepper flakes and a little cinnamon, nutmeg, hawaij or baharat. I served mine with oven-roasted kabocha squash tonight. You can keep things really simple and basic or get your crazy on. But whatever you do, makes these burgers soon.

Recipe

Yield: 4 large burgers or 6 medium burgers

Ingredients

Chickpeas and Quinoa

1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas (If using canned chickpeas, drain and rinse them)

1/2 cup of dried quinoa, rinsed and cooked in 1 cup of water

1/2 cup of sundried-tomatoes

Sun-dried Tomatoes

1.5 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon black or white sesame seeds

1 teaspoon nigella seeds

Scant 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or cracked black pepper

1.25 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried mint or 1 teaspoon fresh mint

1 teaspoon paprika (sweet, hot or smoked)

1 clove crushed garlic

Juice of one lemon or lime

2 to 3 Tablespoons finely chopped red or yellow onion (if using a food processor, let it do the work!)

2 to 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander) or parsley

Garnishes

Quickly pickled onion or slices of onion

Lettuce of choice

Tahini sauce, Sriracha mayonnaise or Herbed Yogurt

Sliced tomato (I didn’t have any large tomatoes)

Fresh Coriander and Spices

Directions

Place the quinoa and water in a small pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until all of the water is just absorbed. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until just combined. You do not want a paste.

Chickpea Quinoa Burger Mix

The mixture can be refrigerated at this point until you are ready to cook the burgers. I like to refrigerate the mixture for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld and for everything to firm up a bit, but these can also be made right away.

When you are ready to cook, use moistened hands (with cold water or a tiny bit of a neutral oil like Canola) to form the patties.

If you are pan-frying the patties, heat a skillet with about 2 Tablespoons of oil. Place the patties in the skillet and cook for 6 to 7 minutes per side. Do not press down on the patties while cooking. Cook until they are evenly brown and crisp on both sides. Depending on the size of your patty, you may need to adjust your time. Since these are vegan, there is no health risk if they are under-cooked. You do want to develop a bit of a crust. Remove from the pan and serve.

If you are making these in the oven, line a baking pan with parchment or foil and lightly grease the pan. Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 15 to 20 minutes per side, depending on the size of your patty. You want the burgers to develop a crust on the outside and to turn a darkish brown. Because my oven is really awful, I ended up turning on the broil for a few minutes just to develop a nice crust.

Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake

Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake

Normally I wouldn’t make a blueberry recipe in the middle of winter. But with this Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake you can enjoy summer anytime! I don’t know what farmers are doing with blueberries these days, but they have been gorgeous – both beautiful AND delicious. And it is my granddaughter’s favorite food. So I am taking advantage and putting them in everything from my morning oatmeal to Dutch Baby pancakes to coffeecake and yogurt – even salad. But even if you don’t have access to great fresh berries, I have successfully made this with frozen blueberries.

For years, I have been on a quest for the perfect blueberry coffeecake. And I have tried many, many recipes, but while generally okay, they just always disappoint. But I am happy to report that my quest for the perfect blueberry coffeecake with a great streusel topping is finally over! This is it, folks. Perfection – no need to look any further.

I came across this recipe on the King Arthur Baking website and then I “improved” it. By adding lemon zest and doubling the streusel topping (I mean you can’t have enough streusel, right?) my Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake makes a scrumptious treat that can be enjoyed anytime. Have a piece for your morning coffee or tea or as an afternoon pick-me-up. And it’s a lovely addition to any brunch table. But this Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake also makes for a delightful fruity and not heavy dessert when you just want something, but are not sure what. I like to sneak little cubes of it when I think no one is looking. Every bite contains these purply blue beauties that burst in your mouth.

The cake itself is light and yet rich, fragrant with vanilla and lemon and not overly sweet. Just the right amount. And the blueberries just pop! Best of all, it takes no special skills to make. It will come out right the very first time you try it. I think it’s perfect as is, but sprinkling a bit of powdered sugar on top before serving wouldn’t go amiss.

My cake is served straight from the pan. If, however, you wish to take it out for presentation, you will need to grease and line the pan with parchment which you then grease again. This lovely, lovely cake should be a regular in your rotation. It’s that good.

For other delicious berry treats try these:

Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake with Roasted Strawberries

Blueberry Galette

Financier Pastries

Blueberry Muffins

Fresh Blueberry Cobbler

Lemon Berry Bundt Cake

French Toast with Berries (or Challah French Toast)

Mini Berry Tarts

Ricotta Blintzes with Berries

Recipe

Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake

Yield: 9 generous servings

Ingredients

For the Streusel Topping

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1 cup of unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Generous pinch of kosher salt

8 Tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temperature

For the Cake

2 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons of double acting baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temperature

1 large egg

Zest of one lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup of milk ( dairy or non-dairy)

2 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries (If fresh, wash and dry them)

Garnish

Powdered, 10X or icing sugar (Optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease and 8-inch or 9-inch square pan. (I prefer to use the 8-inch pan, although I made it with both. Your cake will be a little deeper with the 8-inch, which I prefer.)

Make the streusel topping by combining all of the ingredients and rubbing them together with your fingers or a fork until crumbly. Set aside.

Blend together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

In a larger bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, egg, lemon zest and vanilla. Alternately add the milk and the flour mixture. Do not overmix. Add the blueberries and gently mix through. Don’t worry if there is a little bleeding. (If you are using fresh berries that have been dried, toss them with about 1 Tablespoon of your flour mixture. It will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake. This won’t work as well with the frozen berries, but the cake will still be delicious.)

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake

Sprinkle the streusel mixture over the entire top and gently press down towards the batter.

Depending on the size of your pan and your oven, bake for between 40 to 50 minutes. The top will be golden, you will see a bit of berry ooze and the smell will be intoxicating. That’s how you know that it is done.

Cool completely before eating. I know, it will be very hard to wait. So at least allow the cake to cool to just warm before cutting.

Oven “Fried” Eggplant

Oven “Fried” Eggplant

Like many people, I can be seduced by fried foods. And I love nothing more than a slice of eggplant, well seasoned, lightly breaded and fried to perfection. But the truth is that I hate actually frying anything. Aside from the oil spatter (which I have to clean up – yuck!) the house always smells for days and then I am stuck with oil to discard safely. And the extra calories. Don’t even get me started on greasy fried foods cooked in oil that wasn’t quite hot enough or was burned because the oil was too hot. But this Oven “Fried” Eggplant is everything that I love and nothing that I hate about fried food.

What is really great about this Oven “Fried Eggplant” – aside from the results – is that it teaches you a method which you can almost endlessly riff on to please your palate. The seasonings I used are Italian-leaning, but you could just as easily sub in Indian or even Asian spices. And my husband and I ate this as a light supper with a delicious salad and a simple tomato sauce to dab on top. However, let your imagination be your guide rather than your limit. Layer the slices in a stack with slices of fresh mozzarella and thick slices of tomato and serve with arugula tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette.

These wonderful Oven “Fried” Eggplant slices would make a great layer stuffed into a pita with slices of hard-boiled egg, hummus and Israeli salad or pickle for a delicious take on a Sabich sandwich.

Are you a fan of chutney or raita or tzatziki? Think how amazing this Oven “Fried” Eggplant would be with these instead of a tomato sauce? You could even make this as an appetizer with a variety of sauces and allow your guests (remember them?) to choose their favorite.

Eggplant
Oven “Fried” Eggplant

The key to making this work is two-fold – well maybe three-fold: 1) You have to slice your eggplant just the right thickness. Too thin and the eggplant will burn. Too thick and it won’t cook through before the breading burns. 2) You need to have a broiler and a shallow, heavy aluminum pan. 3) You have to watch it. If you have a convection oven, which I don’t, there is no need to turn the pan – only the eggplant needs to be turned over once. But without a convection oven, I rotated my pan halfway through each side. This really wasn’t difficult or even a big deal and the total cooking time is only about 16 minutes. But it’s not a great time to get busy with something else.

So enough chatter. Let’s cook up some Oven “Fried” Eggplant! This recipe comes from a wonderful cookbook by Gloria Kaufer Greene. Frances and I have made many recipes from here, and they are always accurate. ANd it’s an interesting read.

Well, okay, a word first on choosing your eggplant. The eggplant should weigh about 1 to 1.5 pounds and be firm. If you want to double the recipe, that’s fine, but don’t choose a larger eggplant. Choose two instead. The larger the eggplant, the more the more likely you are to have bitter seeds. And you do NOT want that.

With an eggplant weighing one to 1.5 pounds, you should not need to salt your eggplant first to draw out the bitterness. This would work with almost any type of eggplant that comes in at around this weight. I just wouldn’t use really small ones. And while I did not make mine vegan, you can make this using an egg substitute. To make life easy for yourself, use a good store-bought brand of tomato sauce. You can doctor it with seasonings you like or buy it pre-seasoned. It doesn’t have to be hard to be good!

For other wonderful eggplant recipes:

Baked Stuffed Eggplant with Lamb and Bulghur

Eggplant Pâté (Bharta)

Greek Eggplant Dip: Melitzanosalata

Moussaka

Baked Pasta in Eggplant: Pasta Incaciata

Eggplant stuffed with Ground Lamb

Eggplant Raita Middle Eastern Style

Eggplant and Tomato Bake

Eggplant and Beef Albondigas

Lamb and Eggplant Casserole

Savory Galette with Eggplant, Zucchini and Feta

Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms, Eggplant and Tomatoes

Recipe

Yield: About 6 servings as a appetizer or 3 to 4 as a dinner with salad or pasta

Ingredients

Seasoned Breadcrumb Mixture (You can skip this and used purchased Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs if you are feeling lazy. The herbs and measurements are a suggestion.)

2.5 cups dried bread crumbs (Panko or regular)

1.5 Tablespoons dried parsley flakes

1.5 teaspoons dried onion powder

1.5 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper (or Aleppo pepper)

Eggplant

1 medium eggplant, about 1 to 1.5 pounds

2 large eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute

2 Tablespoons Canola oil

Garnish

2 Tablespoons chopped parsley

About 4 ounces of tomato sauce

Directions

Mix all of the ingredients together for the seasoned bread crumbs and place in a dish that will be large enough to hold the largest slice of eggplant.

Lightly oil or coat with non-stick spray (I used EVOO) one large, heavy metal baking sheet. (You could use two but why clean up more than necessary). Set a cooling rack over a second baking sheet or over paper towels or parchment. Set aside.

Cut off and discard the ends of the eggplant. Cut the eggplant into circles that are 3/8-inches thick. Size matters here. Use a ruler for the first one.

Preheat your oven to broil and place your baking rack 5 to 6 inches from the heat source.

Beat the eggs (or egg substitute) with the Canola oil in a dish that is deep enough and large enough around to fit the largest slice of eggplant. (I used a pie plate.)

Dip each slice of eggplant into the egg mixture and allow the excess to drip back into the dish. Immediately coat both sides of the eggplant with the breadcrumb mixture by laying it in flat, applying a small amount of pressure and then turning it over to repeat. Lay out the coated eggplant slices onto the prepared pan.

Broil the eggplant slices for a total of about 12 to 16 minutes. Turn the pan halfway for each side unless you have a convection oven so that you get even browning. Flip the slices halfway through. As soon as the slices are done, place them on the cooling rack to keep them crispy while you continue cooking any remaining slices. I did 2 batches.

When you are finished with all of the slices, arrange them on a platter. Sprinkle chopped parsley, basil or cilantro over the top. I grated a bit of parmesan as well, but honestly, it isn’t necessary.

Oven “Fried” Eggplant