24 June 2009

Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry

I knocked this entrée out of the park, and I'll tell you why. Chastened by my recent failure on the Pineapple Quinoa Stir-Fry, I resolved to no longer alter the Veganomicon recipes. I admit to omitting a hot chile pepper but transgressed no further.

I served this dish with both a fruit salad (strawberry, pineapple, red grape) and a green salad of red leaf lettuce, Belgian endive, toasted hazelnuts, and goat cheese. Several people suggested that I adorn the fruit salad with some sort of citrus-sugar concoction, but I left it naked and tasting superb.

Fruit Iz De Tastee!

Back to the curry. A mélange of soft red lentils and tender cauliflower with kisses of parsnip, onion, and shallots soaked up a spicy brew of vegetable broth, curry powder, and various other warm-climate spices. As a flourish I zapped it with lime juice and chopped cilantro. The recipe authors told me to let it rest, and I did…for over an hour. The flavors melded beautifully. Julia frequently told me how excellent it was, and Julia knows her food, so listen up: it was excellent! Even George approved.

The curry paired beautifully with long-grain brown rice. I think even long-grain white rice would do. Go wild.

23 June 2009

Pineapple Quinoa Stir-Fry

Some people prefer new recipes merely to slightly modify familiar dishes. Doug, for example, makes one kind of lentil soup. He is open to other, similiar lentil soups but barely tolerated my Pineapple Quinoa Stir-Fry because juicy sweetness in an entrée is an affront to his palate. I felt the same until my friends Heather and Gillian introduced me to pineapple pizza two years ago. Now I'm drawn to the possibilities of slight sweetness in an entrée or side dish.

Unlike Doug I keep on hand recipes that represent several contradictory conceptions of a good meal. So I enjoy slightly sour soups, a bean dish cooked with wine and apples, a Mexican lasagna of corn tortillas, a stir-fry cooked in ketchup instead of soy sauce, and two types of luscious whole-wheat vegan cakes. Pineapple Quinoa Stir-fry, a recipe in Veganomicon, fits neatly into my obsession with unexpected foods.

I'm sure the original recipe tastes fantasic. I made so many slug-brained modifications that only Julia said she liked it, and she possesses excellent manners. This dish probably functions better as a side dish. Next to pizza.

Sarah's Not-So-Praiseworthy Pineapple Quinoa Stir-fry Variation

I toasted blanced slivered almonds instead of cashews. A mistake.
I used canola instead of peanut oil.
I used shallots instead of scallions.
I omitted a hot red chile.
I don't know how much fresh, minced ginger I put in. Too much, apparently.
I omitted a red bell pepper.
I added far more than 1/2 Cup fresh basil, and I didn't cook it.
Ditto for fresh mint.
Instead of salad bar pineapple, I used fresh-cut pineapple chunks.
Soy sauce
Vegetable broth
I forgot the lime wedges for garnish.
Red and original quinoa, cooked in pineapple juice and water.

We all dutifully ate a bowlful, but I don't feel like eating the leftovers today: a bad sign. But without a doubt the stir-fry places in the World's Top Ten Beautiful Stir-Fries. Also delightful was the textural interplay on the tongue of pineapple chunks, peas, nuts, and quinoa. A better, or more obedient cook, could definitely turn this recipe into a masterpiece.

18 June 2009

Veganomicon WIN!

As you may recall, for the last 3 months I have been on a vegan diet (plus a few extra restrictions for giggles!). Combined with exercise, this diet paid off although I have several months of delightful deprivation to go. Today I deepened my vegan recipe repertoire with the help of Veganomicon, a recipe book written by the people who wrote Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I find Veganomicon a promising resource, even for those blissful future days when I reëmbrace clotted cream and hot buttered scones. Tonight's repast featured both the pleasingly simple Escarole with White Beans and Basil-Cilantro Pesto.

I liked that the Pesto lacked both Parmesan and pine nuts. Many people love pine nuts. I don't, but even pignole fans must admit that pine nuts don't keep well and cost more shekels than the leading nut competition. The Pesto made up for their absence with lots of basil, a handful of cilantro, raw garlic, blanched almonds, and lemon juice. Lacking a food processor, I tossed the solids into a blender, but there wasn't enough liquid in the recipe for the blades to work. I added a little of my favorite vegetable broth (Imagine's No-Chicken Broth) and presto chango! Delicious pesto.

I slathered the pesto on sprouted whole wheat bread (GF bread to you celiacs), and topped it with sliced tomato and slow-roasted Portabello mushrooms. Heaven sang in my mouth. George also masticated blissfully.

For the escarole side dish, I went All Out. Dried beans cooked at home always outshine beans from a can…and cost practically nothing. So last night I soaked my small white beans. This morning I drained and rinsed. I covered them with two inches of water, added fresh parsley stems, and brought them to a boil. Then I simmered, checking every 15 minutes. When they were tender but not done, I salted them but good. They only had to cook in total for about an hour. I drained them, removed the parsley and tossed with extra virgin olive oil. Voilà! A week's worth of beans so good that George and I snack on them plain and cold.

I removed a cup of those beans, and cooked them with garlic, capers, and a head of escarole. That simple! It barely took any time and the food turned out scrumptious and elegant. George tends not to like the bitterness of escarole, but he ate it all up. Maybe I was staring at him pointedly, I don't know.

Doug's not home, so LEFTOVERS! Hurrah!

17 June 2009

Peas N' Beans

This post will not convey my most recent, exquisite experiences with home-cooked food. Justine just visited us. She whipped up some tasty scrumpkins: scones, citrus curry, onion sonata soup, and (most divinely) chocolate mousse cake from the Voluptuous Vegan. But all these triumphs are for her to tell (nudge, nudge) although we hold hostage the pictures for the cake. Once she takes possession of the photos I am sure you will all yearn to learn how to make the most luscious, glistening chocolate cake in the world (also vegan and part whole wheat—Score!).

I, on the other hand, managed the less spectacular but no less unusual feat of conceiving a dish meriting all this praise: easy, quick, healthy, cheap, long-lasting, and satisfying to both George and me. I call it Peas N' Beans. Not as magnificent as chocolate cake, sadly, but fills up the 'tum.

Peas N' Beans

frozen peas, about half a small bag
one third of a 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 or 2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 Cup blanched slivered almonds, chopped up
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch turmeric
pinch ground ginger
pinch ground cardamom
pinch other, similar spices like curry powder or ground coriander that I may have forgotten


1) Steam peas until tender. Drain and cool as fast as possible.
2) Meanwhile, saute shallots in spices and oil one minute. Add garbanzos. Heat and cook thoroughly.
3) Mix together peas, garbanzo mixture, and almonds. Serve over rice.

02 June 2009

Chinese Dumplings

If it's wrapped, sandwiched, rolled up, or stuffed into an edible material, I will eat it. I will happily munch on burritos, egg rolls, dosas, stuffed peppers, tortellini, crêpes, rice balls, Vietnamese spring rolls, pierogies, chimichangas, blintzes, sushi rolls, tacos, stuffed deep-dish pizza, enchiladas, ravioli, and miniature quiches. My friend Justine likes to make Burrito Bowls, which is all the fillings without the tortilla; well, Justine, it may be healthier—a lot healthier—but you are Missing the Whole Point.

The point is that it's like eating a nicely wrapped present. That's the point.

I was bowled over with joyousness when Vegetarian Times magazine had a whole section featuring home-cooked take out food. I had just cottoned onto the astonishing deliciosity of vegetarian dim sum in New York City and San Francisco and was eager to build myself a three-week stash of this goodness. Kay was visiting me at the time so I enslaved her and together we produced Eggplant shu mai and Chinese dumplings (with snow peas and mustard greens). Kay now says she hated them, but I think she's just remembering all the hard work they required because she sure wolfed them down, same as George and I did.

How to Cook Chinese Dumplings

You can find your own recipe; the tricky part is cooking them properly. I prefer to use gyoza skins (pictured above) but won ton skins are okay. When filling them, moisten the edges with water or egg yolk, and bring the edges together in whatever shape you want, making sure that there's a flat surface somewhere on the dumpling so you can cook them easily in the frypan. Then freeze the dumplings on a flat surface. When they're good and frozen, you can seal them in freezer ziplocks for a long time if you like.

Take out the least sticky fry pan you have and cover the surface of the pan with a mixture of oil and mostly water. Heat it up but good. Add the dumplings, so the fry pan is not too crowded. Cover the fry pan with some sort of lid or foil. Occasionally push the dumplings around so they don't stick to the bottom. After they're cooked all the way through and the water is cooked off, continuously move the dumplings around the fry pan until the bottoms are nicely crisped up. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce of your choice.
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