30 October 2010

A very vegetarian Hallowe'en

Hallowe'en is the most vegetarian-friendly holiday—not so much for vegans, unless they own Moskowitz's seminal Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. This year I'm hosting a pot luck Hallowe'en costume party. I'm providing homemade gingersnap cookies (by George, for those of you who remember his cookie-making triumph at the IrreverentCook's senior recital). Also I'm making hot fresh popcorn with salt no butter. For drinks, I'm mulling real, unfiltered apple cider with cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. Not much fuss to throw it all together, but graduate students always seem quite gratified by homemade anything.

And you?

20 October 2010

Dessert Wrap

This dessert wrap is a no-brainer…in that no brains have come up with it before, inexplicably. This wrap sounds almost the same as its equivalent sandwich, yet somehow it tastes and feels like a completely different animal. It's best shared as a dessert or a late-night snack.

Dessert Wrap

High-quality whole wheat tortilla or flatbread without any hydrogenated oils
1 banana, peeled
peanut or almond butter

1. Don't laugh at me! I'm serious about the awesomeness of this recipe.
2. Heat up a tortilla. Slather on a goodly amount of nut butter.
3. Place the whole banana on one end and roll the tortilla around it.
4. Enjoy with a nice cuppa tea or coffee.

18 October 2010

Mexican Vegetarian: Nopales Tacos

I live off Taco Row in Durham near all the taquerias and carnicerias and tiendas. I like to wander, a stranger in a strange land, through aisles of delicious looking hot peppers and exotic root vegetables. Unfortunately, I speak only two phrases of Spanish: "No comprendo espagñol" and "me gusto papas fritas." I know: ME STUPID AMERICAN. ME LIKE FRIED FOOD.

So when I wanted to learn Mexican vegetarian cooking, I hit a wall. I could not read Spanish-language cookbooks. All the English cookbooks I found were either not what I was looking for (substituting TVP for meat or doing a Mexican-American vegetarian fusion), or so meat-heavy that it wasn't worth my money to buy a whole book for the few vegetarian recipes.

Luckily, I have a neighbor who not only emigrated from Mexico, speaks English, and likes me, but bonus! she's a fantastic cook. Mexicans frequently cook a lot of vegetarian food because meat is expensive. I begged her to teach me some vegetarian Mexican recipes, and so far she has taught me two. This one is my favorite. You can easily turn it into a slender burrito by switching out corn tortillas with flour tortillas.

Nopales Tacos

corn tortillas with only three ingredients: corn, water, and lime
2 poblano peppers
2 yellow onions
Lime mayonnaise (either pre-made, like McCormick's, or you mix mayo or vegan mayo with fresh lime juice and paprika)
15 oz. jar nopales (cooked cactus strips)
queso fresco, mozzarella, or vegan mozzarella

  1. Wash the poblanos and then fry them in a fry pan until they are brown and puffed up all over. Immediately seal them in a ziplock plastic bag for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, grate some of the cheese.
  3. Chop the onions. Sauté them slowly in a large fry pan until tender or golden brown, your preference. Set aside.
  4. Rinse the nopales. Seriously, soak them in water and change the water several times. You cannot overwash these things.
  5. Chop up the nopales.
  6. By now the poblanos should be done. Cut them open and rinse out the seeds. Peel off the skin under running water.
  7. Chop up the poblanos. Add the chopped poblanos and chopped nopales to the onions. Cook together about 3 minutes until heated through.
  8. In a small dry fry pan heat up a corn tortilla on medium heat. When it is soft, put it on a plate, spread on a little of the mayo, sprinkle on a little cheese, and then add a few spoonfuls of the sautéed vegetables. Fold the tortilla into a half moon.
  9. Return the the tortilla to the fry pan and cook a minute on each side so that it is a little crisp and thoroughly heated through.
  10. Serve immediately and for heaven's sake, don't shout "Voìla!"
Makes 14 or 15 tacos.

15 October 2010

Durham's Vegan Challenge!

O loyal reader, whoever you are (OK, I'm pretty sure it's my mom), I have some great news. Durham, North Carolina has begun a vegan challenge that runs all October! Read all about it here. In essence, 10 restaurants are competing to create the most mouth-watering vegan dish which does not involve "portabello mushrooms, hummus, veggie burgers or chocolate cake." SMIRK The contest creators are hoping that tastier, more creative vegan options become permanent in many of Durham's most popular restaurants. I hope this too, not because I'm vegan—although I have, accidentally, been eating vegan for three days now—but because I learned from Goddess-Chef Myra Kornfeld's cookbook The Voluptuous Vegan that the most delicious vegan food is actually the same as the most delicious food, period.

Of the participating restaurants, I've previously eaten only at the Federal and Rue Cler. From this vast experience, I'm betting Rue Cler is going to win. Their beignets literally do that melt-in-the-mouth thing I've only otherwise experienced with cheap chocolates. And their salads taste like they grew on your plate. Unfortunately I don't have time or money this October to participate in the contest, but if they make these dishes permanent, some day I hope to try most of them.

Vegan road trip for some of you? Check out the competing dishes here.

More about the Bull City Vegan Challenge:


14 October 2010

Hummus Burrito

To a vegetarian, a hummus wrap is one of the Boring Sandwiches of the Universe. At delis Vegetarians always get offered hummus wraps laden with poor-quality hummus and tasteless vegetables. And if the wraps are cold—and they're always cold because apparently vegetarians only care about health, not taste or texture—they crack and break. Cold flour tortillas taste like Styrofoam or sun-dried tomato-flavored Styrofoam. Yeah, I can see you nodding; you U.S. vegetarians know exactly what I mean.

Well, don't take that nonsense anymore. I invented this hummus burrito the other day when I woke up an hour late for school and had only 2 minutes to pack my lunch. Since then I have enjoyed several variations on this theme. It's filling and quick, vegan and moderately healthy. It does however require a microwave.

At Costco I bought a huge pack of the Flatout flatbread pictured left plus many wasteful containers of Sabra hummus for extra portability. Plus a large jar of really good miniature pickles.

Hummus Burrito

1 Whole-grain wrap or flat bread of your choice--just make sure it doesn't have any hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oil in it because that stuff will never leave your body and it is quite bad for you and also it makes everything taste old.
Some hummus you actually like (my favorite brand is Sabra)
Cold leftover rice of your choice
Optional filling

1. Lay wrap on a plate.
2. Smear hummus all over one side of the wrap.
3. Spoon on rice of your choice.
4. Microwave it until hot or warm.
5. If you have a filling, add it now. It could be pickles, broccoli, tomato, chopped fruit, falafel, leftover salad, dried cranberries, tofu, some salsa, grilled onions, etc.
6. Roll it up. Eat.

If you are packing your lunch for later, put the rice on the bottom of your snapware container/ bento box, fold the tortilla on top. Bring the hummus and utensil in separate containers. Then when you reach a microwave and plate, simply assemble according to the directions above.
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