Category Archives: Vegan

Huge News…and Coconut Rice!

As of last Monday January 23rd, I took a full-time job! A legit gig, a straight 9-5 deal. I’ve been working freelance for nearly a decade, and it’s been an incredible ride. But I’ve always been one to look out for the next great thing, and believe me, I landed a great thing as the senior food editor at Tasting Table. There aren’t many jobs out there that suit me, my background, and my personality, but I can’t think of a better match. I get to create new recipes, test tons of recipes from the country’s best chefs, review cookbooks, and work alongside some super smart thinkers, writers, editors, and chefs. It’s a dynamic work environment where anything seems possible—so exciting for a food writer. For so long I’ve been scared of what’s happening with cookbooks, food television, magazines—so much upheaval, so many talented friends out of work, so much unfairness and irresponsibility (that’s life, right?). Well, now I get to bask in my good fortune. That’s how it feels on the other side of the fence, looking at nothing but possibility and great big open field of opportunity. It’s a great thing.

Getting dinner on the table though, well, that’s going to be a whole new challenge!! No longer do I have the luxury of skipping down the steps to the kitchen at 5:30 and whipping up something on a whim. No longer do I even have the luxury of sitting down to dinner with my kids (except for weekends, and what a beautiful food-filled weekend did I just have!). Now I have to really think about the week in advance. I’m planning and being strategic. We WILL still eat a homemade meal every night. It’s just going to take some creative hopscotching to do it.

So from here on forward, not only am I going to offer up recipes that inspire me and fuel me as a cook. I’m going to feature plans for getting through the week on a working moms schedule.

But you’ll hear more about that next week. Once I’ve gotten through this week and have the recipes and strategies to share (a few recipes will count on a gorgeous pork roast, so start looking for good deals now—I bought a stunning 4 1/2-pound shoulder for about $30 in Brooklyn meaning it’s probably far cheaper elsewhere!).

For now, I have a beautiful coconut rice side. Those of you who may be scared off by rice (it’s like coffee—either you’ve got the touch, or you don’t) need not worry: this dish gets baked in the oven for a nearly foolproof perfectly cooked outcome. I use coconut milk and a little water as the cooking medium, and finish it off with chopped peanuts, toasted coconut, and cilantro. Instead of white rice, I’m using long-grain brown jasmine rice that boosts up the fiber count and makes me feel okay about the sweet-rich boost from the coconut milk. It’s just the thing to make that ho-hum chicken breast seem a little more special.

Coconut Rice with Peanuts and Cilantro

Serves 4

I love this as a meat-free lunch doused with Sriracha sauce.

  • 3/4 cup long-grain brown rice (I like jasmine)
  • 1 1/4 cups coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped raw peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons shredded coconut (preferably unsweetened)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the brown rice in a baking dish and pour in the coconut milk and water. Add the salt and give it a stir. Set the rice in the oven and bake until all the liquid is absorbed, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove the baking dish from the oven, fluff, and set aside.
  2. Place the peanuts and coconut on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring every minute or so, until the coconut is golden and the peanuts take on an oily shine, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and use a spoon to scatter the peanut mixture over the rice. Finish with cilantro and serve.

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Filed under Dinner, Grains, Recipe, Side dish, Vegan, Vegetarian

Game Time Nosh (Vegan!): Lentil-Walnut Dip

Okay, big time confession: in high school, I was (gulp) a cheerleader. Yes. I was. I was one of those high pony-tailed stiff-arm clapping cheer girls that dreamed up cheers in her sleep and wore the cheerleading outfit to school on game days. So yeah, even though I dropped out my senior year (and traded my letter jacket for a black leather motorcycle one–a la Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2), I was that girl, the cheerleader.

I worked hard at cheering. I went to cheer camp (yes, seriously). I tried really hard not to drop girls when tossing them into the air for the all-important basket toss (we dropped a few every now and then–our football team was never very good, so we considered it extra bang for our fans’ viewing pleasure. I mean picture us, two girls, arms clamped together to form a square, tossing some blonde featherweight 15 feet in the air–never straight up, mind you–and then following her shadow so we wouldn’t miss her, at least not very often, on her decent.). What I never really paid attention to was the game going on behind me. First and ten? I knew the cheer, but what did it all really mean? To this day, I don’t have a clue. Though I cheered for three years, I couldn’t tell you a foul from a goal (wait, is that even football?).

But I was good at cheering (and now, all of you who have seen me scream and cheer and hoot and whistle for people I don’t know running the NYC Marathon, you know where it all comes from). I was also good at cooking. There was many a time when, post Friday night lights, we’d find some deserted fast food parking lot to convene at, do something(s) illegal, and then retire to a home with no parentals present. While others were making out in closets and sucking down Milwaukee’s Best from funnels and plastic tubing, I’d often be in the kitchen making cookies. How I never burnt down a kitchen I’ll never know. And don’t ask me what anything tasted like. Who knows (I never even used a recipe–just threw stuff together in a bowl). I think we enjoyed whatever it was at the time. I mean, it wasn’t exactly like anyone had the brain power to complain.

All this to say that whatever the game of the day is, be it baseball, football, or Harry Potter Hogwarts Legos, I really could care because my mind is where the most important plays are being hatched anyway: the kitchen. And whether you’re into ball games or board games (such as 221 Baker Street, a super fun detective game like Clue but better), food is always a focal point. Buffalo wings, chili, a devilishly runny Robiola. They enhance the game play and keep you sated for the long stretch.

My absolute favorite dip is onion dip with potato chips. Oh man, if you serve that to me you better establish a ten-foot boundary around that bowl because like white on rice, I am on it and will eat the whole bowl. But do you know what makes onion dip so slammin’ good? Lots. Of. Fat. Not that I mind, but paired with potato chips and beer, it makes for a not-so-great post-game feeling. So I got to thinking. What’s a dip that feels as great to eat as it tastes?

And I recalled lentil-walnut pâté. Now quit your eye rolling, okay? It is honestly and truly delicious. In fact, the day after Thanksgiving, we visited some friends in Philly and they had a deli container of lentil-walnut pâté from the local coop. No sooner had the top been peeled back than the dip had disappeared. Just like that, it vanished. It was creamy and earthy and sweet and hearty and  tasted right, especially after a ridiculously delicious yet insanely rich meal the day before.

Lentil-walnut dip is like hummus but softer, more mellow and earthy and honestly, more party-friendly since it doesn’t have the sharp garlicky-lemony hit that hummus can have. To keep the texture airy instead of heavy, I use very little oil and quite a bit of the lentil cooking liquid (note that it does solidify a bit in the fridge, so if you want to make it ahead of time and want it to retain its fluff, let it sit at room temp for a stretch before serving). I barely toast the walnuts, just letting them warm up in the oven to give them a surface gloss without heavy toasty notes that threaten the lentils’ softness. A little fresh garlic, some salt, and neutral oil (I use grapeseed), buzz away in the food processor and it’s done. As a dip or a sandwich spread it’s fantastically healthy, protein-packed, and nutritious.

If I only knew about lentil-walnut pâté when I was 17. But then again, with the blade of a food processor and boiling water to contend with, maybe it’s better that I didn’t.

Lentil-Walnut Dip

Serves 6

For a touch of spice, I sometimes sprinkle it with a little za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice made from sumac, marjoram, thyme,  toasted sesame seeds, and salt (see my version below). It gives it more of a hummus taste and looks pretty too. Double or triple the batch of dip and you won’t be sorry. Serve some at your game day event and save the rest for a wrap/sandwich or to snack on with pita chips or celery sticks.

  • 1 cup dried lentils, rinsed under cold water
  • 1 cup raw walnut halves
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Pita chips, seeded flatbread,  crackers, or veg sticks for serving
  1. Bring 3 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the lentils, return to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and gently simmer until the lentils are tender and creamy (scoop a few out with a fork to test them), 12 to 15 minutes.
  2. Place a sieve over a large bowl and drain the lentils through the sieve. Reserve 1/2 cup of the lentil water and set aside (freeze the remaining lentil liquid and use it like you would water or chicken broth for making rice, flavoring chili, or bean soup). Set the lentils aside to cool completely, about 1 hour (shake the sieve every so often to redistribute the lentils and let off some steam).
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet pan and toast just until they become glossy and slightly fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a large plate, and set aside to cool.
  4. Place the walnuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process for 30 seconds to combine. Add the cooled lentils, canola oil, salt, and reserved lentil cooking liquid. Process until the pâté lightens in color and becomes very airy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Transfer the dip to a bowl and serve with pita chips.

Homemade Za’atar

Makes about 1/4 cup

This ancient herb blend is obviously excellent sprinkled over Lentil-Walnut Pâté, hummus, babaghanouj, and grilled meats. But it’s also tasty in untraditional ways too: like sprinkled over deviled eggs, added to ground meat before making burgers, combined with oil and lemon juice to use as a simple salad dressing, or patted on to a creamy log of chèvre and drizzled with fruity olive oil for a cheese course.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 3/4 teaspoon sumac
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
  1. Mix the marjoram, sumac, and thyme together in a small bowl.
  2. Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the sesame seeds. Toast, shaking the skillet often, until the seeds are golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the salt and the marjoram mixture and toss to combine.
  3. Transfer to a rimmed plate to cool. Store in a glass jar and use within 1 month.

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Filed under Appetizer, Holiday, Recipe, Vegan, Vegetarian

Side Dish or Center Plate? You decide: Broccoli-Brown Rice Pilaf with Garlic, Lemon, and Spiced Almonds

This is the first post in a weekly series on interesting, delicious, healthy side dishes. The side dish is often the forgotten component of a meal—it’s the rice, roasted potatoes, or simply buttered green beans. Sides, however, can be just as interesting and delicious as the main plus they present an incredible opportunity to get creative, try out new flavors, and figure out fun ways to get healthy and wholesome whole grains and veggies onto plates. Additionally, sides are often cheap to make and easy to turn into a vegetarian main dish (whether you’re vegetarian or not, it’s nice to add a meatless Monday or two into your week to lessen your family’s dependence on animal proteins which in turn helps the environment and your bottom line).

In this hearty pilaf, the rice and broccoli elements are easy to love, with familiar flavors like garlic and lemon. The slivered almonds are fried in olive oil until they’re golden and crunchy, and then get sprinkled with spices and salt. They’re little flavor grenades that absolutely explode when bitten into! And the cool part is that kids and adults can sprinkle them over their own portion as they wish. For some reason I love Middle Eastern, North African, and Indian spices with the nuts, but something more mellow, like a cumin mixed with paprika or chipotle chile powder with dried rosemary would be nice.

Broccoli-Brown Rice Pilaf with Garlic, Lemon, and Spiced Almonds

Serves 6 as a side, 4 as a main

Once the spices hit the sizzling-hot almonds, the essential oils in the spices are released giving the nuts an even deeper, toastier flavor. These are fantastic added to salads, too. If using white rice instead of brown, reduce the cooking time for the rice by fifteen to twenty minutes.

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon full-flavored ground spice blend (such as ras el hanout, garam masala, za’atar)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 small shallot or 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 3/4 cups long-grain brown rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
  • 3 cups finely chopped broccoli florets (from 2 medium stalks)
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press or finely minced
  • 1/4 lemon, for serving (optional)

 

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and cook until golden brown, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes. Use a spatula or slotted spoon to transfer the almonds to a plate (use tongs to help you get all the almond bits out of the pan—the pan gets reused for cooking the broccoli and you don’t want leftover almond pieces to burn); turn off the heat and set the pan aside. While hot, season with the spices and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and set aside.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in another large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring often, until the shallots are soft and browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring often, until it smelly toasty, about 2 minutes. Pour in 1 1/4 cups of water and the chicken broth (if using water instead of broth, add 3 1/4 cups total). Give the rice 1 stir, bring it to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until tender, 35 to 40 minutes. To test the rice, quickly remove a few grains using a fork—once it’s cooked to your liking, turn off the heat and let the rice steam for 5 minutes.

 

3. While the rice cooks, make the broccoli. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the remaining oil in the pan from the almonds and set it over medium-high heat. Let the oil get hot for 1 to 2 minutes and then add the broccoli. Let the broccoli brown in the pan without stirring until it turns bright green and has browned edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and toss to combine. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, stirring often, for about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn off the heat and transfer the broccoli to a large bowl. Cover with the rice, squeeze the lemon over the top, and stir to combine. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds just before serving. Taste and add more salt if needed.

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Filed under Dinner, Grains, Recipe, Side dish, Vegan, Vegetable, Vegetarian, Vegetarian Main

Better Off Veg: Veggie Bahn Mi

There are some dishes in which meat seems superfluous at best. Like nachos. I mean with all that cheese, the sour cream, the salsa, the guac, the beans—is meat piled on top really necessary? Same goes for the McDonald’s cheeseburger—get it without the meat and I swear you’ll be thanking me. Bahn mi falls into this category too. I mean, don’t get me wrong—I love pâté. Like with toast points and cornichon and seedy mustard. But with the sweet-tang of the marinated carrots and daikon, the heat of the jalapeño, the citrus-herb kapow of cilantro, and the hot hit of Sriracha, porky pâté just kind of gets in the way, you know?

Which is why I started ordering it without. Oh, I got a few hairy raised brows—no meat? Did I want sautéed mushrooms instead (no.)? Tofu (no.)? Chicken (no.)? I got tired of justifying my no-meat bahn mi, so I decided to make it mi self (sorry, couldn’t resist).

For satiety’s sake, I make a killer spread-y sauce out of silken tofu, cilantro, jalapeños, and a spoonful of mayo (vegans can use vegan mayo, of course). This spread is so good you’ll be making it for tailgating and baby showers instead of onion dip, I swear (it’s also great made into bite-sized bahn-mi bruschetta). Next, I quickly dunk ribbons of carrots and daikon in a fish sauce-rice vinegar marinade (again, vegans can do a lime juice-sugar-tomato paste combo as a decent stand-in). I pile it all on a warm, crisp baguette (preferably a pillowy supermarket-style baguette and not a super crusty artisanal one—more times than not they’re just too tough) with a smear of sriracha, fresh cilantro, and chopped jalapeños. It’s a sandwich that’s all about getting it right, not trying to make do without.

Veggie Bahn Mi

Makes 4 sandwiches

1 12-ounce brick silken tofu

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

3-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and roughly chopped

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 jalapeños, 1 finely chopped, 1 roughly chopped (seeded for less heat)

4 6-inch long Italian rolls or 2 small baguettes, ends trimmed, each loaf divided into two pieces

8 ounces daikon, peeled into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or shaved on a mandolin

3 carrots, peeled into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or shaved on a mandolin

3 tablespoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 cucumber, peeled and sliced crosswise into 1/8-inch thick rounds

1 cup fresh whole cilantro leaves

Sriracha chili sauce

Place the tofu, mayonnaise, ginger, the roughly chopped jalapeño, and the salt in a small food processor and purée. Transfer the sauce into a small bowl and refrigerate until you’re ready to make the sandwiches (it will thicken a little as it chills).

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set the rolls on a rimmed baking sheet and place them in the oven until warm and the crust crackles when squeezed, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the rolls on a cutting board. Slice the rolls open leaving them connected at one side and set aside.

Place the daikon, carrots, fish sauce, and rice vinegar in a medium bowl and toss to combine.

Smear some of the tofu spread on the top half of each warm roll. Sprinkle the finely chopped jalapeños (if using) over the spread. Divide the carrot and daikon mixture between the rolls and top with a layer of cucumbers. Place some cilantro on top and then squeeze a few dots of Sriracha over the cilantro. Use the back of a spoon to push all of the ingredients toward the center of the roll. Press the roll closed and eat!

For Vegans: Use tofu-based mayonnaise in place of regular mayonnaise and substitute 3 tablespoons of lime juice whisked with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of tomato paste for the fish sauce. Check the label of the hot sauce to make sure there isn’t fish sauce in it.

Make Ahead: The tofu sauce can be made up to three days in advance. It makes a great dipping sauce for raw veggies, too.

Bahn Mi Bruschetta: Slice a baguette crosswise into 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick slices. Toast the slices in a 350°F oven just until dry and no longer spongy, but not truly toasted, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool, then spread each slice with some tofu spread and then a few dots of Sriracha. Top with some diced jalapeños, a cucumber slice, some dressed carrots and daikon, and cilantro leaves. Serve.

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Filed under Appetizer, Dinner, Recipe, Sandwich, Vegan, Vegetarian, Vegetarian Main