New year soupalution

Now that we’re into week three of the new year and the holidays are well behind us, it’s easy to stress about getting real with all those resolutions.

I don’t really care about making (or sticking to) New Years resolutions. I’m forever making changes and trying out new approaches toward getting things done in my life throughout the entire year, so piling them all on one date seems like a recipe for failure. When I’d rather just be thinking up tasty recipes. But the one palatable change after months of decadent holiday eating is “eat little healthier”. And for me, soup is always the answer, with it’s nearly endless flexibility and easy of loading up with tons of fresh veggies and legumes.

The following recipes adapted from my new book Vegan Eats World. Adapted in that I’ve streamlined a few things, because I really want you to make this rich and tangy Mediterrean-inspired soup and the delightful chickpea “parm” topping. The soup base itself is endless flexible and can be altered with the addition of any diced vegetable (zucchini, butternut squash, artichoke hearts) or bean (chickpea, kidney, navy) or any combination of fresh or dried herbs.

The parm topping is inspired from a perhaps unconventional source, a traditional Ethiopian dish that uses a toasted chickpea flour batter to mimic fluffy scrambled eggs that I played with during the writing of VEW. This tangier, finely crumbled version of bu’techa resembles fat crumbles of freshly grated parmesan cheese, that unlike popular nut-based parm, the crumbles dissolve upon contact with hot broth, creating a velvety tangy layer on top of any soup.

The chickpea topping is also excellent on top of red sauced pasta or tossed into any pasta dish, so the resolution to choose better everyday meals like soup can be all the more savory. Here’s to a tasty and healthy 2013!

White Bean Farro Soup with Chickpea Parmigianino

Serves 6

  • 1 cup uncooked farro
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
  • One 14-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • Two 14-ounce cans cannellini beans or any white bean
  • Additional olive oil for drizzling (optional)
  • 1 cup baby spinach leaves or finely chopped escarole (optional)
  • 1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Few twists of freshly cracked pepper and salt to taste
  • 1 recipe Chickpea Parmigianino Topping

1. Pour the farro into a metal mesh sieve and rinse. In a 4-quart soup pot, preheat the olive oil over medium heat, stir in the garlic, and fry for 30 seconds. Add the onion, celery, and carrot and fry for 5 minutes or until onion is tender and translucent. Stir in the tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, salt and fry for 1 minute. Stir in the vegetable broth, beans, and farro. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil for 1 minute, then reduce heat to medium-low and partially cover. Simmer the soup for 30 to 40 minutes or until the farro grains are plump and tender. Occasionally uncover and stir the soup.

2. When the farro is tender, if using spinach or escarole stir into the soup and simmer another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley and season with pepper and salt to taste. Partially cover the soup and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

3. Ladle soup into large deep serving bowls. Sprinkle top with 2 to 3 tablespoons of Chickpea Parmigianino.

 

Chickpea Parmigianino Topping

Makes about 1 1/2 cups topping

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

1. Over medium heat in a small saucepan preheat the olive oil, then pour in the chickpea flour. Use a rubber spatula to mash the flour into the oil and stir constantly to toast the flour for about 2 minutes. The flour should turn a darker shade of yellow and look slightly damp.

2. In a measuring cup whisk together the lemon juice, water, and salt. Pour into the flour; it will sizzle and splatter a little. Stir constantly until a firm ball of dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and spread the dough onto a dinner plate. Use the spatula or your fingers (once the dough cools slightly) to press and smear the dough into a thin layer over the surface of the plate. Transfer the plate to the refrigerator and chill for 15 minutes.

3. Once the dough feels completely cool, remove from the refrigerator and drag a large fork through the dough. Continue to press the fork through it while also stirring and fluffing up the crumbs. The more you work the dough with the fork, the finer the crumbs will be. Continue for 3 to 5 minutes until it’s very fine and crumbly. Use the crumbs now, or pour into a container and chill another 20 minutes for firmer texture.

4. For best results, sprinkle crumbs generously over hot soup or pasta just before serving. The crumbs will dissolve on hot, moist food. To keep crumbs fluffy, use a fork to fluff up before serving.

Feliz navidad con mucho pan

Truth be told, I have been slacking on that Christmas spirit. The summer and fall have been something of blur and I’m just happy to be home and settling in before winter officially kicks in. There’s a pink tinsel Christmas tree I may drag out of the closet by the weekend, I have a batch of cranberry bitters lurking in the corner of the kitchen, but let’s face it, I’m super-lazy about the holidays.

And for the most part, “holiday” food hasn’t been really on my radar. I’ve been obsessed with soups, curries, pizza, growing kombucha babies in tangy tea, gathering supplies for making bitters and pickles. I roasted a batch of chestnuts for kicks last night, and wondered why I don’t do this more often.

But sometimes all it takes to kindle a little holiday cheer is baking up a childhood holiday favorite. But for me it’s not gingerbread or cookies or sugary cakes, but a special savory bread my dad would make (and still does) around Christmas.

This time of year Venezuelan many bakers and home chefs make a rustic, soft bread stuffed with a combination of ham, olives, raisins and capers, not surprising called pan con jamon (ham bread). This sweet, salty and smoky mashup so typically Spanish and tastes great any time of year, but for me it will always taste and smell of Christmas. Or even just feel festive when I’m buying up bottles of olives stuffed with pimentos or capers. But I’ll let you in on a terrible secret: as a miserably picky child, I loathed olives. I’d scream if you got one near me. Yet once a year, this bread would coax the reluctant olive-fan out of me!

Of course, my version is entirely hamless. But my dad’s bread deserves better than factory-made faux ham. There’s where juicy, smoky roasted red bell peppers step in and provide the perfect sweet, savory base. I douse the generous pepper-olive-caper-raisin filling with plenty of extra virgin olive oil for fatty goodness and sweetened it up with a touch of brown sugar and a dash liquid smoke. A touch of thyme, garlic and oregano round out the flavors

Typically pan con jamon is either shaped like a big long rolled up tube, stromboli-style, or formed into small individually round shaped buns. For batch I opted for cinnamon-bun style pinwheels for single-serving ease with with a festive look. And since I’m a huge fan of no-knead bread, I suggest you opt for the overnight fermentation for the fullest-flavored, semi-no knead dough, but you could speed the process along and get shaping the buns after a 2 hour rise.

If you’re looking for a savory alternative to holiday breakfasts or brunches, do give these pan sin jamon pinwheels a go!

Dough

  • 1 1/4 cups gently warmed unsweetened plain almond milk or rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • One 1/4 oz packet active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons melted virgin coconut oil
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting work surface
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Filling

  • 12 ounce jar roasted red peppers
  • 5.75 ounce jar pimento-stuffed green olives (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2.4 ounce capers (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • 2 tablepsoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated on a microplane grater to a fine pulp
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Extra olive oil for brushing
  • Smoked salt for sprinkling

1. Pour the warm almond milk into a bowl, whisk in the brown sugar and sprinkle the yeast on top. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 10 minutes until foamy.

2. Whisk in the melted coconut oil, then stir in the flour 1 cup at a time and stir for a few minutes into a thick, slightly sticky dough. Cover the top of the bowl tightly with a double layer of plastic wrap and set aside overnight for about 12 hours, or for a minimum of 2 hour or until doubled in size.

3. While the dough is done rising, drain the peppers very well, dice and transfer to a large colander. Drain the olives, roughly dice and add to the peppers. Drain the capers, add to the olives and peppers and using your hands firmly squeeze everything to remove as much liquid as possible. Transfer to a small bowl, add the remaining filling ingredients EXCEPT for the olive oil and combine thoroughly. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. Generously flour a large work surface and use your hands or a rubber spatula to transfer the dough to the work surface. Sprinkle the top of the dough generously with flour, then dust a rolling pin with flour and roll the dough into a rectangle roughly 16 x 10. If necessary, sprinkle the dough with flour to stop any sticking. Brush the olive oil over the dough, leaving about 1 inch of space around the edges.

5. Use your hand to press down on the filling in the bowl and drain away any excess liquid that may have collected. Spread the filling in an even layer over the olive oil. Carefully roll up the dough like a jelly roll and pinch the along the seam to seal, then pinch and tuck in the ends. Place the dough log seam side down and slice into pieces about 1 1/2 inches thick.

6. Carefully transfer the slices (they may be a little fragile, loaded with filling) about 2 inches apart on the paper-lined baking sheets. Gently re-shape the slices if necessary. Cover buns with a damp, clean kitchen cloth and set aside for about 1 hour or until doubled in size. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375F.

7. Gently dab a little olive oil on top of buns and sprinkle with a little smoked salt (just a touch, this is optional but adds another smoky dimension) Bake for 35 minutes or until golden and crusty. Cool slightly before serving. Tightly wrap leftovers and store in the fridge. These are best reheated before serving.

Apple Cabbage Skryim Stew

Busy week? Too busy download the new Skyrim add-on Dragonborn? Well I totally understand! Between Vegan Eats World related activities, various food experiments, holiday shenanigans and meditating on what my next book is going to be, my next major video game fix is still on hold. But not so much that I can’t get my vicarious Skyrim-fix via cooking.

For those who don’t know, Skyrim characters can engage in in-game cooking. While it’s not essential for a “power gaming” experience, it’s a fascinating virtual pastime for real life cooks like me: find those ingredients (be it a village market or stolen from a musty dungeon), stir and tap a pot (in your thatched-roof hut, massive stone villa or a over a bandit’s campfire), and violá, you have a stew or soup or fondue that will fuel your trek through the woods and mountains. Or scarf it down while running away from frost trolls. As normally with a home cooked meal.

Apple cabbage stew is an actual Skyrim in-game staple, one of the first things my character cooked (ask me about my character in comments if you dare), and one of the few vegan offerings in this snowy, pixely land. The in-game the recipe is fairly bare bones and requires only 1 cabbage, 1 red apple, 1 salt pile. Mine is expanded and enriched, but with ingredients commonly found in Skyrim and things I’d imagine that a mythical, vaguely Nordic/European land to harbor: leeks, shallots, garlic, dill or thyme, and yummy caraway seeds. The resulting stew is soothing, mellow and slightly sweet; I love eating it with a hearty sourdough rye bread, perhaps paired with a tart cashew cheese spread or white bean dip for a complete meal.

This vegetable-fruity soup is light fare indeed; use the heartiest, richest vegetable broth you can find for the best flavor possible. If that’s something you make yourself good for you, but don’t be afraid to make a strong batch of Better Than Bouillon veggie broth. I’ve made it with either fresh dill or fresh thyme for variety and occasionally tossed in a diced unpeeled red potato or a handful of cooked white beans for heft, but I like the simplicity of the basic soup best. Top each serving with a dollop of plain vegan yogurt for cool, creamy contrast.

So put down that skanky roasted skeever tail, hang up your ebony shield, kick back by the fireplace and dig into a bowl of tasty good for ya stew tonight!

Apple Cabbage Stew

Serves 6 Wood Elves or 4 Nords or 2 Orcs or 1 Giant

The simplicity of this recipe requires the freshest cabbage, apples and leeks you can find, making this the ideal concoction to use up produce seen at the farmer’s market during the winter or from a winter CSA share.

  • About 1/2 pound green cabbage, core removed (4 generous cups roughly chopped green cabbage)
  • 2 firm, tart red cooking apples, unpeeled
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 6 cups rich vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon smoked sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried dill OR 4-6 springs fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • Abundant freshly ground black pepper and smoked salt to taste
  • Plain soy yogurt, additional chopped fresh dill for garnish

1. Slice the cabbage in half, then slice lengthwise into thick strips. Slice the cabbage horizontally to make 1 inch wide pieces. Slice the apples into quarters, slice away the stem and seeds, then chop the apples into 1/2 inch cubes.

2. In a 2 quart soup pot preheat the oil over medium heat, then stir in the leek, shallots and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened, then stir in the caraway seeds. Fry for another 2 minutes, then add the broth, bay leaves, marjoram, salt and cabbage. If using dried dill, dried thyme, or fresh thyme sprigs, add these now too.

Increase the heat to high and bring to an active simmer for 3 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Partially cover and simmer the soup for 15 minutes or until cabbage is tender.

3. Stir in the apples, partially cover and simmer another 8 to 12 minutes or until the apples are tender (simmer less for firmer apples, more for very soft, tender pieces). Turn off the heat. If adding fresh dill, stir this in and cover. Rest the soup for about 10 minutes, uncover and taste the broth; adjust the seasonings with more black pepper and salt as needed.

4. Serve the soup hot ladled into wide bowls, and if desired top with a spoonful of plain soy yogurt and a sprinkle of chopped fresh dill.

Child’s play chia pudding

Soaked slippery chia seed foods are all the rage now, but I was slow…very, very slow to feel the chewy passion. Post Thanksgiving and pre-New Year’s Eve, these next few weeks can be rocky territory for those trying to eat healthy on those non-party days, including yours truly. But since craving a nutrient-dense breakfast alternative to start the day, I’ve slipped chia seed pudding into my life. Call me a convert, but I now love the stuff.

I should have loved slippery soaked chia all along; after all, I adore okra, the princess of vegetal-slime delights. But for the past two years with it showing up everywhere from drinks to sauces in brunch spreads, I just couldn’t get past its blobby amphibian-egg looks. Just picking up a bottle of Mama Chia kombucha drink felt like being watched by thousands of tiny eyes.

For a few years I’ve been blending teaspoons of raw chia into smoothies and baked goods, so what was my problem? This summer I finally caved and gave into drinking chia in fruity kombucha. I was ready to evolve. Like a picky child discovering for the first time olives, capers, or raisins (the three things you couldn’t get me near as a kid but today I can’t get enough of today), I was hooked on texture-loaded charms of soaked chia.

The following recipe is rather raw but not obsessively so. It also can be pantry friendly: chia, cashews, almonds, dates and the spices and nibs are all things you can buy in bulk and when properly stored (refrigerate in warm summer months) are ready when you are.

This is the way I like my chia pudding, slightly thick, a little sweet, and mildly nutty. This makes about 3/4 of a quart of creamy, nutty vanilla pudding flecked with cacao nibs. Or leave out the nibs and customize every serving with other toppings (berries, fruit, jam, shaved dark organic chocolate, nuts, etc.) for an entirely different pudding every time. One batch made Sunday gives me enough to snack on until Tuesday; the fiber rich chia and nourishing cacao nibs keep me full longer, so a small serving goes a long way.

Chocolate chip chia pudding

Makes about 3/4 quart

  • 1/4 cup unroasted, unsalted whole cashews
  • 1/4 cup raw whole almonds
  • 6 large Medjool dates, pits removed and torn into small pieces
  • 1 3/4 cup water (use 2 cups for a thinner pudding)
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons raw chia seeds
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cacao nibs

1. In a glass or plastic mixing bowl combine the cashews, almonds, dates and water. Set aside to soak for 2 hours, then pour into a Blendtec/Vitamix or blender and pulse until very smooth; it should resemble a thick milkshake without any chunks.

2. Pour the nut-date mixture into a 1 quart glass or plastic container, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of chia and use a fork and vigorously whisk the seeds into the mixture; make sure they are free of clumps and completely coated. 1 tablespoon at a time, thoroughly whisk in the remaining seeds. Make sure to break up any clumps. Tightly cover the container and chill for 3 hours or until cold and very thick. Stir in the cacao nibs, or alternatively stir the pudding, distribute into serving cups and sprinkle with nibs. Chill leftover pudding and eat within 3 days.

 Other toppings to stir into individual servings:

-Thawed frozen organic blueberries, raspberries or blackberries

-A spoonful of organic jam

-Shave the edge of a dark chocolate or raw chocolate bar with a veggie peeler for chocolate shards

-Diced seasonal fruit: peaches, plums, strawberries, melons, apples or tropical banana or pineapple

-Gently warm and sprinkle with more cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup

A world of vegan Thanksgivings

I’m hesitant to suggest entire menus for Thanksgiving. They’re everywhere this time of year in magazine spreads and websites, promising to make this year’s feast special. But really, practically everyone I know who cooks on that day takes a patchwork approach toward menu planning: it’s a hodge-podge childhood favorites (from lasagna to spinach pie) and American tradition merged with contemporary trends (chipotle tequila cranberry sauce anyone?), not to mention catering to an assortment of dietary needs from gluten-free to sugar free to my favorite, vegan.

The most traditional Thanksgiving meal I’ve eaten wasn’t with family in the U.S., but in Paris with friends old and new, a few days before I presented a cooking demonstration at Vegan Paris Day in 2010. On a candle-lit boat docked on the Seine, we savored a dinner by The Gentle Gourmet vegan B&B (I believe currently transitioning to a full service restaurant). It was a comforting plate of nostalgia I never thought I had: seitan mushroom roast (drove in from Germany that morning), herbed cubed bread stuffing, stewed fruit compote and sage gravy followed by pumpkin cheesecake. All the Thanksgivings I’ve ever eaten (pre and post vegan) featured black beans, vegetarian sushi, empanadas, arepas, pierogi in addition to the usual suspects. I love that I had to travel to France to finally get a taste of real Americana, vegan-style.

So in the spirit of whatever traditions fill your holiday table, here are a few suggestions from the pages of Vegan Eats World. These are recipes that feel right at home for any meal from the 22nd of November until January 1st, and well into the new year. I surprise myself sometimes by how many recipes I cranks out inspired by fall flavors; apparently this is my favorite food season of the year. Browse through the index for the page numbers for these beauties:

Bisteeya
This show stopper entree is a huge Moroccan savory pie wrapped in filo dough; mine is stuffed with chickpeas and cauliflower brimming with aromatic spices. I plan on baking up this beauty for Xmas myself. It’s best served warm and let guests carving out big warm chunks for themselves. It’s really a meal on its own, simply served with a kale or carrot salad dressed with lots of lemon and olive oil.

Seitan, Almond and Sesame Tagine
The rich and mellow Moroccan spices reminded so many of my recipe testers of fall. I love this hearty seitan dish loaded with dried fruits, almonds and toasted sesame seeds. Traditionally paired with couscous, it could saddle up beautifully next to a mellow whole wheat bread stuffing.

Rhubarb cranberry chutney
I originally made my first batch two springs ago upon finding a few stalks of rhubarb in my CSA box. Much to my delight another CSA member confessed to me that her Indian mom did exactly the same thing, “it’s sour, so of course she made chutney”. If you can find frozen rhubarb, this red zesty chutney will also make great sandwiches with that leftover nut roast.

Pumpkin Kibbe
This veggie spin on a Middle Eastern favorite is holiday ready! This rich and hearty pumpkin casserole with bulgur wheat and a rich walnut filling is a beautiful centerpiece that serves 6 really hungry folks, or 8 with lots of sides.

Sweet Autumn Toasted Pita and Kale Salad
Sometimes that holiday table looks so brown. Or beige. Lighten things up with a mound of fluffy emerald green kale salad dotted with roasted sweet potatoes and rubyl-like pomegranate arils!

Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Dukka
Dukka is a nutty, aromatic Egyptian spice dip. Typically served just with bread and oil, it’s sometimes sprinkled on mashed cooked veggies, like this dish featuring roasted mashed squash.

Pumpkin churros
Pumpkin pumpkin everywhere! These pretty Latin-style doughnuts are just that. Maybe not so much for the big dinner event, but perhaps a light brunch the next morning.

Tenacious Tart Tatin
Of course you’ve been eating nothing but pumpkin for months now, so sometimes it’s too easy to forget our other autumn dessert darling, pumpkins. Try this rustic French spin on pie, tart with a rich olive oil shortbread crust smothered with deeply caramelized apples.

But of course, if it’s traditional pumpkin pie you crave, you can’t go wrong with our tribute to the best recipe vegan pumpkin pie recipe ever from Vegan Pie in the Sky on The PPK blog right now.