Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Red Garlic Soup

I desperately wanted to post about warm weather treats like Vanilla Milk and Crème Brûlée, but the sky has just dumped about 5" of cold flakes, leaving me snuggled up in fleece. Fleece. (I loathe fleece, and do not take its wearing lightly.) So tonight, you're getting soup.

This recipe is named not for an exotic sort of ruby-hued garlic, but simply for the fact that it's red. Very red, made so by red bell peppers and lots of tomatoes.

It's so simple, and to carry on the laziness I felt while making it, I'm not even going to type it up properly. As with most soups, there's a huge margin for variation here, so skip the onion, add different vegetables, stir in some cooking sherry. Lazy.

It goes like this: In a large stockpot, saute 3-4 diced stalks of celery, a diced onion, and 4-8 crushed cloves of garlic for about a minute. Add 3-4 cups diced mixed vegetables (I used a frozen package of carrot, corn, and green beans), along with 2 diced red peppers. Saute until slightly soft, then stir in 1 13-ounce can tomato sauce, 2 13-ounce cans diced tomatoes, and 1 or 2 cups water. Transfer about a third of the soup to a blender, blend completely smooth, and return to the pot. Add about 1/2 teaspoon each of dried basil, oregano, thyme, and sea salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer about 30 minutes or as long as you like. Salt to taste; this will depend on the amount in the tomatoes, and which vegetables you use, so taste well. The juice of a lemon, stirred in at the end, also gives the soup a lovely tart punch.

Serve each portion with a swirl of Cashew Crema or a sprinkling of fresh herbs, if you like.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sweet Potato, Lentil, and Coconut Curry

Despite the Winter doldrums, hearty stews like this make me glad to savor the last of these cold days. This curry combines plenty of vegetables (use whatever you have on hand: cauliflower, potatoes, red peppers) with the richness of lentils and coconut, and is so comforting, you'll want to snuggle on the couch with a bowl any time of year.

Sweet Potato, Lentil, and Coconut Curry
8-12 servings
The secret to this soup's creamy texture is a combination of red lentils--which practically dissolve when cooked thoroughly--and blending half of the soup. Use this technique any time you want to add smoothness without added fat. (Of course, that doesn't apply here, since this recipe uses an entire can of coconut milk.)

1 1/2 cups red lentils
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
4 carrots, sliced into 1/2" pieces
4 stalks celery, sliced into 1/2" pieces
2 zucchini, sliced into 1/2" half moons
3 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2" chunks
6 cups water
2 13-ounce cans crushed or diced tomatoes
1 13-ounce can coconut milk (low fat coconut milk can also be used)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon sea salt
generous pinch crushed red pepper
1 bunch kale, spinach, or other dark greens, roughly chopped
juice of one lime

Soak red lentils in water for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Drain, rinse, and set aside until ready to use.

In a large stockpot over medium high heat, combine olive oil, garlic, onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, and sweet potatoes; I simply add each ingredient as I'm finished chopping, in no particular order. Saute until just tender, 5-8 minutes. Add water, crushed or diced tomatoes, and reserved lentils. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer 30-40 minutes.

Transfer half the soup to a blender (if you have a plastic blender jar, you may want to cool it slightly in a bowl first), and blend until very smooth. Return blended soup to the pot. Stir in coconut milk, curry powder, sea salt, crushed red pepper, and greens, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Add lime juice, and serve hot.

The curry is excellent as is, or served over cooked grains for a more substantial meal.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Raw Apple Tart

Crisp apples and rich caramel pair with a crumbly almond-pecan crust in a tart that can be served for dessert, breakfast, and even dinner. Enjoy the vanilla-flecked filling on its own for an afternoon treat, or use it to fill a cooked apple pie for a dessert with plenty of sweetness and no added sugar.

Every cook should have a squeeze bottle (or several) on hand to dispense icings and sauces effortlessly and attractively. Look for them at kitchen supply stores or cake decorating shops.

Raw Apple Tart
8-12 servings
For the tart crust:
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup dates, pitted
pinch sea salt

For the filling:
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into rough chunks
1/2 cup dates, pitted
juice of 1 lemon
beans scraped from 1" of vanilla bean (toss in the whole piece if you have a high-speed blender)
pinch sea salt
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced

For the icing:
1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least an hour
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons agave nectar or 2 large pitted dates
additional water, to blend

Make the crust:
In a food processor, combine almonds and pecans until ground to a fine meal. Add dates and sea salt, and process until well combined. The mixture should hold together when pressed, but should not be too moist. Press into an 8" or 9" cake pan lined with plastic wrap, using the bottom of a glass to level the crust. Chill in the refrigerator while you assemble the filling and icing.

Make the filling:
In a blender, combine the 2 peeled apples, 1/2 cup dates, lemon juice, vanilla bean, and sea salt until completely smooth. Transfer to a large bowl, add apple slices from remaining 4 apples, and gently toss to combine. Set aside at room temperature while you make the icing.

Make the icing:
Combine raw cashews, lemon juice, agave nectar or dates, and 1-2 tablespoons water, and blend, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add water by the tablespoon until completely smooth, and a consistency suitable for drizzling; a spoonful should just begin to disappear on the surface when dropped into itself. Transfer to a squeeze bottle or small bowl, and set aside.

To assemble, tumble apple filling onto prepared crust, smoothing the top to make a slight mound. Squeeze or drizzle the icing over. Serve with cups of tea or Vanilla Milk (look for the recipe on veganjoy this week), and enjoy!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Barbecue Ranch Bowl

A few years ago, I lived in Westwood Village, just blocks from the fantastic vegan restaurant Native Foods. When offerings like the Chicken Run Ranch Burger or Chili Cheese Fries (delicious, but very fatty) gave way to something healthier, I'd order a Mad Cowboy. Substantial and healthy, this heap of baked potato, vegetables, barbecued tempeh, and ranch dressing always left me satisfied...and still ready for a long walk around the neighborhood.

This Barbecue Ranch Bowl is loaded with vegetables, and inspired by Native's Mad Cowboy. It uses my hot pan method to cook the tempeh and vegetables, and features the same elements as my Barbecue Ranch Salad in Cook, Eat, Thrive, and I think it will quickly become one of your favorites.

Barbecue Ranch Bowl
4 dinner servings
The Peppercorn Ranch Dressing yields about 1 cup and keeps well, giving you just enough for salads and sandwiches the following week.

For the vegetables and tempeh:
2 large Russet potatoes, or other baking potatoes
1 8-ounce package tempeh
1/3 cup barbecue sauce (store-bought is fine; I used Trader Joe's Kansas City Style)
1/2 pound cauliflower (about half of one head), cut into 1" florets
1/2 pound broccoli (about half of one head), cut into 1" florets
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4" chunks
2 zucchini, cut into 1/2" half moons
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika

for the Peppercorn Ranch Dressing:
½ cup vegan mayonnaise
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk, preferably unsweetened
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon dried basil, or ½ teaspoon finely minced fresh basil
¼ teaspoon dried parsley, or ½ teaspoon finely minced fresh parsley
¾ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

additional barbecue sauce, thinned with water to a drizzling consistency, for serving
2 green onions, green parts only, for serving

Heat oven to 400ºF, and place a large metal pan (or two smaller ones) in the oven. Prick potatoes with a fork, wrap in foil, and place in the oven in any space not occupied by the pan(s).

Cut tempeh into thirds (each third will be a square shape), then cut each third in half crosswise to make six thin squares. Halve each square on the diagonal; at the end of it, you'll have 12 small triangles of tempeh. Toss gently with barbecue sauce, and transfer to prepared pan(s) in the oven, careful not to burn your fingers. Bake about 15 minutes, until edges are charred, turning once. Remove to a plate, and cover with foil or another inverted plate to keep warm.

While the tempeh bakes, in a large bowl, toss together cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, corn, sea salt, paprika, and olive oil. Once tempeh is finished cooking (don't worry about cleaning the pan), toss the vegetable mixture in, and roast 20-25 minutes, stirring once.

While the vegetables roast, make the Peppercorn Ranch Dressing:
Whisk together all ingredients in a 2-cup measure or smallish bowl. The dressing will keep, refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks. Set aside.

At this point, the potatoes should be nicely baked (sqeeze one to be sure; it should give slightly under your fingers). Remove from oven, along with the vegetables.

To serve, halve each potato and place the halves in 4 bowls. Evenly divide vegetables among the bowls, and top each with 3 triangles of tempeh. Drizzle additional barbecue sauce and about 2 tablespoons of Peppercorn Ranch Dressing over each serving. Garnish with green onions, using scissors to cut them over the bowls. Bring to the table right away, with extra barbecue sauce and Peppercorn Ranch passed alongside.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Family News

The unexpected things are the best.

There are plenty of fantastic blogs on lifestyle and yoga and children--and other stuff I enjoy--so I try to post purely on food here. But I wanted to share a bit of my life, and something I've been humming with for the past few months.

When I met the man I live with, we both knew we wanted to adopt. We'd spent a month in India, working with children there, and left with the solid belief that every child deserves a family. Years later, thinking of the thousands of children without families, it seemed silly to create another person to live with us. We decided to adopt internationally, and began the process.

Then, somewhere in the Puerto Rican rainforest, coquis chirping in the darkness outside, I woke at 4:00 a.m. with the distinct feeling that I was pregnant. And I was. And I had not planned to be.

I took deep breaths, nodded vigorously in my surprise, and decided that yes, this was the way it would be. More travel and several months later, my daughter was born into my arms, in a tiny Los Angeles apartment. She has been the most intense and amazing blessing I've ever witnessed. Because of her, there is a well of gratitude in me for treasures of rocks and sticks found in pockets, and laughing over tea in the afternoons, and waking to a sweet drowsy face every morning.

It's the same gratitude that fills me with expectation for what we're going to do next, and I'm so happy to begin it.

We are working toward becoming a foster family, fostering infants and young children, with the eventual hope of adoption.

After hours of parenting education classes, CPR and First Aid certifications, and stacks of paperwork, we're at the final step. The whole process has been surprising and a little crazy, but it all feels really joyful, and I'm incredibly grateful that we're able to do this.

The last bit is the homestudy, which I'm sure will be an adventure. I'm already thinking of the cake I'll bake (Italian Cornmeal, of course), and what sort of tea to serve, and which flowers to put on the mantle. That's all ridiculous stuff, I know, but imagining the trivialities keeps me from viewing this as monumental and terrifying!

Many vegans are interested in adoption, so I'll certainly post about the homestudy in detail. I wonder if they'll look in my refrigerator, or ask how I get my protein, or raise an eyebrow and inspect my kid for signs of deficiencies. I guess we'll see; it should happen in the next two months. Cross a few fingers for me.