Thursday, March 24, 2011

Eating Vegan in Indy, Part 2!

I've done some more investigating and found some more awesome places to eat vegan-style in (and around) Indianapolis...I'm loving this city more and more with each meal!

First, for non-Indianapolis food: the Owlery, a new vegetarian/vegan place in Bloomington, IN, which is only about 45 minutes away. This place is awesome!! It's main focus is on veg versions of comfort foods, such as tofu ribs and vegan fish'n'chips. The food is absolutely delicious! My friend and I shared the Vegan Poutine for our appetizer! Holy cow! If you're unfamiliar with poutine, it's basically just french fries smothered in gravy and topped with cheese curds. Yeah. This version had vegan cheese and an awesome veg brown gravy. Salllllllt and fried goodness.

For my entree, I had Piegrogies!!! I haven't had pierogies since going vegan, so this meal was super special. I got to choose three condiments from a long list, so I picked sauerkraut, vegan sour cream and applesauce. Best meal I've eaten in a long time! Carbs!!

Now onto Indy eats!!

First, for fantastic Mexican food, there is La Parada! My friends and I go there weekly, it's that good! It's a little hole in the wall, and it is run by a wonderful group of people. For veg options, just ask for dishes with beans and no cheese or sour cream. There's also the Spanish rice, guacamole, and free chips and salsa! Score! My favorite item is the Gordita Rajas, with roasted poblano chiles it in..just ask for avocado instead of cheese and you're good to go!

One of my favorite places to eat in Indy is the Ethiopian restaurant Abyssinia. I love love love Ethiopian food, and this place does it right! A very wide (and delicious) vegetarian menu, relaxing atmosphere, and great staff. What's not to love??

For an appetizer, there are the Yesimir Sabmusa, a flaky pastry filled with spiced lentils and vegetables, very similar to the Indian samosa. Mmmmmm....

For the entree, I recommend sharing the Vegetarian Taste of Abyssinia platter, which comes with a little of each veg option on the menu. So great!!! It's perfect for sharing, so bring someone with good taste to dinner with you! I also love the Fitfit, which is like a salad made with chopped up injera, tomatoes, jalapenos and a vinegar-based dressing. Hooooly cow.And of course, all the dishes are served with Injera, the spongy flatbread made out of a fermented teff batter. I wish I had a piece of it the size of a beach towel I could wrap myself in and then eat the whole thing. Maybe that's just me! haAnd, if you ask, they will bring you a little plate of condiments for dipping and whatnot. So so spicy and flavorful and gooooood.

Next there is Bosphorus, which is a lovely little Turkish restaurant in the Fountain Square area. It's in a super cozy old house, with fantastic food.

I opted for the hummus and pita for the appetizer, which was the best idea ever! Amazing grilled, warm, soft pita (homemade!) and the creamiest hummus I think I've ever eaten.

For my entree, I got the Falafel, which was on the Mezze menu, but I got it for my meal. Sometimes, I just have to eat falafel. I just have to!! This was served with hummus, veggies, and a tahini sauce, which rounded it out to be seriously perfect!

All in all, I'd say Indianapolis is doing a pretty darn good job of feeding the vegans of this great city!! I'm still hungry for more, though!!! Many more to come, of course.....

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


In vegan and even vegetarian cookery, it can often be hard to add umami, or a savory quality, to many dishes. Often times umami comes from meat or other animal products in cooking. Fortunately, there are a few animal-free foods that can impart that particular brand of tastiness to your food, including kombu seaweed, tomatoes, cabbage, greens, miso, soy sauce and many other fermented foods. A major vegan source of savoriness is from mushrooms. These tasty little fungi provide not only umami, but also a wide range of nutrients! Bonus!

Here's a few of my recent cooking endeavors that featured the savory mushroom:

Pumpkin-Mushroom Curry (serves 4)
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs mustard seeds
1 Tbs cumin seeds
2 Tbs urad dal
12 curry leaves, chopped
2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp asafoetida (also known as hing powder)
2-4 Thai chiles
6 cloves garlic, minced
1" ginger, minced
1 medium onion, diced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
Pinch salt
4 cups fresh or frozen pumpkin, cubed (can also use butternut squash if pumpkin unavailable)
1/2 c water or vegetable broth
1 Tbs jaggery or brown sugar
1 Tbs tamarind
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 Tbs garbanzo flour
12 curry leaves, chopped

Heat oil over medium heat in a large wok or deep skillet. Add mustard and cumin seeds, cook 30 seconds until they begin to sizzle and pop. Add urad dal and curry leaves and cook 30 more seconds to lightly brown. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and chiles and cook for 2-3 minutes to soften. Add the turmeric, cayenne, and asafoetida and saute for 2-3 more minutes. Add mushrooms and pinch of salt, and cook 5 minutes until mushrooms have cooked down and released some of their liquid. Add the pumpkin cubes, water or broth, jaggery, tamarind, salt, pepper, coriander and cumin. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce to low. Cover and simmer 10-12 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender and has cooked down somewhat. Add garbanzo flour and curry leaves, and then cook uncovered for 5 more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh red onion and cilantro, and serve alongside roti and plenty of Indian pickle.

And, another way to use mushrooms in Indian cooking:

Mushrooms and Peas in a Fenugreek Cream Sauce--veganized using pureed silken tofu instead of heavy cream, from the amazing cookbook 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. I'm obsessed with this tasty stew and this book. It's a must have! This hearty dish was made even tastier served atop brown basmati rice
as well as with a side of a Radish Raita, also from 660 Curries, made with coconut yogurt. A perfectly filling a veggie-licous meal!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Local Rosemary Apple Cobbler

I absolutely adore the combination of apples and rosemary. Ever since I made the Apple Rosemary Scones from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's Vegan Brunch, I've been hooked on the marriage of these two flavors! So when I spotted a big bunch of beautiful fresh rosemary at the farmers' market on Saturday, that's the first place my mind (and stomach) went. I also had a bunch of locally-grown apples that were needing to be used...perfect timing!

This recipe is gluten-free and refined sugar-free, but you could use regular all-purpose flour if that's what you had around, just use 2 cups flour total and omit the xantham gum.

Rosemary Apple Cobbler (serves about 12)
gluten-free, refined sugar-free

for the apple filling
6 cups apples, thinly-sliced
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 Tbs maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs arrowroot
Juice of 1 lemon

for the crust
1 cup gluten free oat flour
1/3 c brown rice flour
1/3 c millet or sorghum flour
1/3 c buckwheat flour
2 Tbs tapioca starch
1 tsp xantham gum
2 Tbs baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 Tbs vegan margarine, such as Earth Balance
2 Tbs non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
3 Tbs agave nectar
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/3 cup cold water, or as needed

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish.
In a large bowl, stir together the ingredients for the filling, except the apples. Add in the apples and toss to coat well. Pour into the prepared baking dish and spread out to create an even layer.
Combine the dry ingredients for the crust in the bowl and mix well. Stir in the rosemary. Cut in the cold margarine and shortening using a strong fork or pastry cutter, to create a crumbly dough. Drizzle in the agave and water, adding more water as needed, to form a stiff and slightly sticky dough. Spread dough over the top of the apples in patches, so it covers most of the top but leaves some open spaces. Bake for 30 minutes, until the apples have cooked down and softened, and the crust is firm but not too hard. Let cool 5-10 minutes and serve warm. Goes especially well with some vanilla non-dairy ice cream!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Massaman Mushroom-Seitan Curry

There's just something comforting about a Massaman's probably the combination of warming spices such as cardamom, anise, and cinnamon, or maybe the creaminess of the coconut milk, or maybe just the hardiness of the combination of potatoes, vegetables, and cashews all simmered together with love. It is most likely the combination of all these elements that makes Massaman one of my favorite style of Thai curries. It's a perfect dish for a chilly night in with friends, chatting and watching movies and laughing and staying warm. My version is made with chunks of toothsome seitan, in place of the traditional beef found in this curry with Muslim origins, as well as mushrooms, to give a meaty and savory feel to the dish. This is perfect served with brown Jasmine rice and a side of spicy, garlicky broccoli! Massaman Mushroom-Seitan Curry (serves 4-6)
3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, diced
2 shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1" ginger, minced
2 Thai chiles, minced
8 oz mushrooms, rough chopped
3 Tbs soy sauce, divided
2 cups seitan, diced
2 medium potatoes (or sweet potatoes), diced
1 15 oz can coconut milk
1 small tin Massaman curry paste
1/2 cup water or vegetable stock
2 Tbs jaggery (palm sugar) or brown sugar
1 Tbs tamarind concentrate
1/4 tsp turmeric
Pinch cayenne, to taste
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp anise
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
1/4 c Thai basil, chopped (or 2 Tbs dried basil)
1 cup cashews

In a large wok or deep pan heat oil over medium-high heat. Add red onion and shallots, and saute for 5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add garlic and ginger and cook 1 more minute to lightly brown garlic. Add mushrooms and chiles and saute 2-3 more minutes until mushrooms have begun to reduce. Add 2 Tbs soy sauce and curry paste to the pan. Add seitan and potato chunks and cook 2-3 minutes to lightly brown the edges. Add the coconut milk and water or broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to low; simmer 10 minutes. Add jaggery, tamarind, 1 Tbs soy sauce, cayenne, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, anise and pepper. Cover and simmer 10 more minutes, until liquid has thickened and potatoes are tender. Add lemon juice, basil and cashews, and cook 5 more minutes, uncovered. Add salt to taste, as well as any more heat desired. Top with extra cashews and serve with jasmine rice.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Eating Vegan in INDY: Part One!

Well, now that I live in Indianapolis, my new task is to find all of the awesome places to eat vegan food in this awesome city!

Here's what I've come up with so no means complete, but definitely a good start!

Pizza: If you're looking for delicious vegan pizza, no need to worry...there are plenty of places in Indy that can get you what you need! My favorite so far is Bazbeaux's Pizza. There are several locations around the city, so anywhere you are, you can get good pizza. You can create your own (they even have wheat crust on request!) or order the Senze Formaggio, which is already vegan. It has extra sauce instead of cheese, with sauteed red onions, eggplant, garlic, and fresh basil. I added pine nuts, too! Lots of the pizzas can be made vegan by omitting cheese and such. Senze Formaggio Pizza

Middle Eastern: I know there are lots of Middle Eastern, Greek and Mediterranean places to eat in this city. So far, however, I've only tried one: Ameer's. It's located in the City Market downtown. They have a limited menu, but a few of the daily specials are vegan (Monday is falafel and hummus day, and there is also a day with a lentil and rice dish that's awesome.) This is really tasty and really fast. Everything is made from scratch, which is always much appreciated! Talk to the owners, and they'll let you know what you can and can't have as a vegan! Falafel and Hummus Special--Monday Only
Thai: Siam Square, located in the Fountain Square district, is a really great place to go for authentic Thai food in Indy. A huge menu and lots of vegan-izable items to choose from, including curries, appetizers, rice dishes, and noodles. The staff is willing to omit fish sauce and eggs, making lots of the dishes vegan. Such good food, and perfect if you like it spicy!
Pad Ped with Tofu: a red curry with tofu, Thai eggplant, bamboo, green beans, peppers, and Thai basil in a spicy red sauce; served with jasmine rice.
Brunch/Hippie Food: Sometimes you just want a really good vegan sandwich or some pancakes, right? In that case, you should head to Three Sisters Cafe in the Broad Ripple district. Not strictly vegan, but there are tons of options on the menu which are even marked vegan. There is also a daily vegan soup, and sometimes vegan specials. It's in an old house, making the atmosphere super cute and cozy-- a great place for brunch. And, it is located right next to Good Earth, the hippie natural food store that's been around for decades and has awesome products for the healthy eater.
Portabello Burger, with Vegan Chili
BBQ Grains Sandwich, with Vegan Chili
Indian: I saved this one for last because it is my absolute FAVORITE place to eat in Indy. And in most cities. It's Passage to all-vegetarian Indian restaurant that has an amazing lunch buffet, super friendly and helpful staff, and the best Indian food I've ever had (since I've never been to India and all....) bought or homemade. The best part is that they feature a lot of South Indian food, rare to find in most Indian restaurants I've found. I cannot stress enough how amazing this place is!!! You must go! Bonus: it's right next to an Indian grocery, so you can go buy stuff to make yummy Indian food at home, too!
Roti (they bring naan to your table automatically, which has dairy, but they are happy to bring you roti, which is dairy-free. And awesome.)

Buffet Trip 1--Appetizers (clockwise from the left): Mixed Pickle, Tamarind Chutney, Masala Dosas (in the background), Samosas (the star of the buffet!), Pakoras, and Medhu Vada

Buffet Trip 2-- Main Dishes (clockwise from the top): Lemon Rice, Idli, Aloo Madras, Mixed Vegetable Poriyal, and Bagara Baignan.
Not bad for only being here a few weeks, huh? Well now I'm hungry and ready to try more awesome veg food here in Indy! I'll keep you updated....

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Local Pumpkin Curry and Tamarind-Date Chutney

For my first order of business, I'll start off by announcing that I have moved! That's why I haven't blogged in so long...moving is busy busy busy! I now live in Indianapolis, Indiana. This city is awesome, and I'm particularly excited to discover all the tasty food here! Of course.

This was one of the first meals I made since moving, and it was a big hit. I had a bunch of new friends over for a South Indian feast, and I think it made a good first food impression!

This subzi, or vegetable curry, is made with local pumpkin I froze this fall. Combined with potatoes and lots of spices, it makes a fantastic main dish. I served this tasty curry with cardamom-scented basmati rice, homemade roti (whole wheat flat bread), mixed pickle, and a tamarind-date chutney. Of course, there was chai for dessert, too! If you can get your hands on fresh or frozen pumpkin, you should make this right away. It's so delicious and healthy, too!!
Pumpkin-Potato Curry (serves 6-8)
3 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs black mustard seeds
1 Tbs cumin seeds
1 Tbs urad dal (split black lentils)
1 Tbs turmeric
12 fresh curry leaves, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 chiles, minced (or to taste)
4 potatoes, diced
6 cups fresh or frozen pumpkin, large diced
1 cup vegetable broth
1 Tbs jaggery or agave nectar
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
12 fresh curry leaves, chopped

Heat oil in a large, deep skillet or wok over medium-high flame. Add mustard seeds and cook 30 seconds until they begin to pop. Add cumin seeds, urad dal, turmeric, and curry leaves. Cook 30 more seconds until the dal begin to brown. Add onion and saute 5 minutes until lightly golden and softened. Add the garlic and chiles and saute 1 minute to slightly brown. Add potatoes and pumpkin and saute 5 minutes (adding a few Tbs of water if too dry). Add broth, jaggery, salt, pepper, coriander, and cayenne. Bring to a boil; cover and reduce to a simmer for 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are tender and the liquid has reduced by at least half. Add the second batch of curry leaves and cook 5 more minutes, uncovered. Season/salt to taste and serve. Goes great with rice, roti, pickle, and chutneys!

And here's my Tamarind-Date Chutney...I'm obsessed and I think you will be, too!

Tamarind-Date Chutney (makes 1 qt, feel free to half if desired)
1/2 cup tamarind concentrate
1/2 cup dates, chopped
1/4 cup jaggery or agave nectar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1/2" ginger, minced
1 chile, minced
1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste
1 Tbs vegetable oil
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a medium pot. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce to low; simmer 30 minutes until reduced and thickened. Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth, or pour into a blender and puree (being careful as it will be very hot). Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Aloo Palak Two Ways

I had potatoes and spinach...what better to do than make Aloo Palak (Indian potatoes and spinach)?! I made it twice in a row, but two different ways: one in the North Indian style, a creamy, saucy curry with garam masala, ginger, soy yogurt, and Kashmiri chili powder. The North version was modified from the blog Honey, What's Cooking?, which has tons of awesome (and veganizable) Indian recipes! I served this with some homemade naan and cilantro-mint chutney. Mmmmmm.... The second version of my Aloo Palak was in the South Indian style, a dried curry with mustard seeds, curry leaves, coconut, and lots of chiles. This recipe came from the fantastic 660 Curries cookbook by Raghavan Iyer. I can't get over this book! I served this spicy dish with whole wheat roti and Avocado Chutney, also from 660 Curries. It's like Indian guacamole--with curry leaves, tamarind, chiles, mustard seeds, coconut oil! Genius!

If this were a contest, I guess it would be a tie....both were incredible! Hopefully you can get your hands on some potatoes and spinach soon, because you NEED to eat some Aloo Palak asap!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blizzard Tomato Soup!

It's a freaking blizzard here in the Midwest. So I am snowed in....for a while. The only cure for cabin fever? Grilled Cheeze and Tomato Soup, of course! And plenty of Netflix/Hulu/Twilight Saga/Facebooking/Lost Boys to keep me entertained indoors! Here's my yummy tomato soup recipe. I add a potato to increase the creaminess and thickness of the soup without having to add much margarine or "cream" to keep it lower in fat. This is simply delicious and is just begging to have a pesto grilled cheeze (made with Daiya cheddar!) dipped into it. So perfect together, I can't even believe it! Blizzard Tomato Soup (serves 4-6)
2 Tbs vegetable oil or margarine
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
optional: 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp paprika
Pinch cayenne
1 Tbs dried thyme
1 medium potato, small diced
1 Tbs white wine or white wine vinegar
1 cup vegetable broth
2-15 oz cans crushed tomatoes, not drained plus 1 can worth of water
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp salt, and to taste
Pinch nutmeg
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup almond milk or non-dairy milk of choice

In a medium pot, heat oil or margarine over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 5 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Lower heat to medium and add garlic. Cook 1 minute to brown. Add jalapeno (if using), cumin, paprika, cayenne, and thyme, as well as the diced potato. Cook 30 seconds to toast spices. Deglaze pan by adding wine and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Add canned tomatoes, water, black and white peppers, salt, onion and garlic powders, and nutmeg. Simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add almond milk and puree using an immersion blender. If using a regular blender, you will need to blend this in batches. Puree until smooth. Return to heat and cook 5 more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with a gooey grilled cheeze or simply lots of crispy crackers!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

South Indian-Style Moong Dal and Vegetable Poriyal

If I had to choose....and really, when would I ever have to....I would have to say I prefer South Indian food to North Indian. I don't mean to offend; that's just my opinion. I love them both, obviously! It does seem to me that North Indian cuisine is more popular here in the states, at least judging from the menus at most Indian restaurants I've been to. But as for me, I'm in love with the powerful mango pickle, mustard seeds, curry leaves, spicy chiles, hearty lentils, tangy tamarind and sweet coconut that shine in South Indian cooking. And that's just a short list...did I mention dosa??? Anyway, here is my white girl attempt at capturing those wonderful flavors and techniques, while also using just what I had in my kitchen. I think I could make this every day. It's been three days in a row already! I served mine with homemade roti (whole wheat flatbread) and a yellow tomato and apple chutney I canned in the early fall. Try serving it with your favorite sides and condiments! South Indian-Style Moong Dal and Vegetable Poriyal (serves 4-6)
1 cup moong dal, rinsed
8 cups vegetable broth or water
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs black mustard seeds
1/2 Tbs cumin seeds
2 tsp moong dal
12 curry leaves, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 green Thai chiles
2 cups shredded coconut (unsweetened)
2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp ground black pepper
12 curry leaves, roughly chopped
1 cup green peas, frozen or fresh

Bring moong dal and broth to a boil. Reduce to medium-low and let cook for 30 minutes, until the dal are tender but not mushy. Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the curry.
Combine the onions, carrots, bell pepper, garlic, chiles, coconut, turmeric, ground cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt, pepper, and curry leaves in a large bowl. Stir to combine well and set aside.
In a large wok or deep pan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and let cook about 1 minute, until they start to sizzle. Add the cumin seeds and 2 tsp moong dal and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the curry leaves and cook 2 more minutes. Add the vegetable and spice mixture. Saute for 10-12 minutes, until the vegetables have begun to soften and the mixture has cooked down slightly. Add the cooked moong dal, with about 1 cup of its cooking liquid to the pan. Stir well and reduce to a simmer; cover and let cook for 10 more minutes. Fold in the peas, salt and pepper to taste and let cook 2 more minutes to warm the peas. Serve hot with roti or other flatbread, chutneys and pickles.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Peas to Please: Saag Matar

Continuing with my Indian food obsession is the super tasty and healthy Saag Matar, which is a curry of greens, peas, and lots of amazing spices (saag=greens, matar=peas. fyi.). I adapted this recipe from a wonderful Indian cookbook called Cuisines of India by Smila Chandra. I love this cookbook! Creative yet traditional recipes, beautiful illustrations, clear and educational explanations of ingredients and interesting history of cuisines throughout different regions of India. Lots to love, except there are no pictures. So, if you're really into pictures in a cookbook, I'm warning you ahead of time...but try it anyway! It's wonderful!I served this chunky, spicy curry with brown basmati rice, whole wheat roti bread (I bought it pre-made at the Indian grocery store. I'm a cheater.), and a mango-gunda pickle. Gunda is an Indian berry that, when pickled, is reminiscent of a green olive, but sweeter. It has a pit, so be careful! Anyway, this curry is so great, it should please just about everyone....except for those crazy pea-haters, of course!

Saag Matar (Indian Greens and Peas) serves 6-8
adapted from Cuisines of India

1 bunch fresh greens, such as mustard greens or kale, chopped
1 bunch fresh spinach, chopped
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seed
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh if it's summer
1/2 tsp salt, to taste
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tsp garam masala, homemade or store-bought
2 cups frozen or fresh green peas--not canned!
1/2 cup water or vegetable broth

In a large wok or deep pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add cumin seeds and cook 30-60 seconds, until they start to pop. Add the onion and garlic, and saute 3-5 minutes until lightly browned. Stir in the tomatoes and spices and cook for 3-5 minutes, to allow the tomatoes to cook down slightly. Stir in the greens, peas, and water and reduce to a simmer. Cover pan and let cook for 10-15 minutes, until the greens have cooked down and the sauce has thickened. Salt and pepper to taste, add more spice if you're so inclined...I know I am! Serve immediately with rice, roti and plenty of chutneys!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Eat Your Greens: Saag Tofu "Paneer"

The Indian food saga continues with a fabulous and healthy dish: Saag Paneer! Traditionally, this is made with the Indian soft cheese, paneer, but the dairy can easily be substituted with tofu. I used firm tofu since that's what I had, but I'm betting soft would give an even more "real" texture closer to the traditional cheese cubes. "Saag" is the Indian word for greens, here I used collard and mustard greens, but you can use any greens you like and it would still be delicious!

I've adapted this recipe from the HUGE and amazing cookbook, 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer (probably should've added a sixth recipe. just sayin). This book is packed full of all sorts of curries, especially vegetables and legumes, as well as appetizers, rice, breads, drinks and desserts. All of the meat and dairy dishes can easily be made vegan, too! I have it checked out from the library, but I think this might need to be on my "to-buy" list now! Saag Tofu "Paneer"
adapted from 660 Curries and various internet sites

2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large red onion, thinly-sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
3" fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 cardamom pods, ground (or 1/4 tsp)
2 Tbs tomato paste
1 cup warm water
3-4 bay leaves
2 Thai chilis, minced (or 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper)
2 bunches greens, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 lb tofu, pan-fried
1/2 cup vegan creamer or coconut cream
1/2 tsp garam masala (homemade or store-bought)

Heat oil in a large wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and ginger and cook 5 minutes, until the onions have softened and are golden brown. Remove from heat and add spices turmeric through cardamom to the onion mixture and stir to coat the onion mixture. Place in a blender along with the tomato paste and 1/ 4 cup water. Pulse to form a thick paste. Add puree back to the pan. Rinse the blender out with the 3/4 cup water to get all the spices out, and add the rinse water to the pan as well. Return skillet to stove over medium heat, and add bay leaves, chilis, and greens; stir well to combine. Cover pan and reduce heat to low. Let greens cook 5-10 minutes until slightly wilted. Stir in salt, tofu, "cream" and garam masala. Let simmer 2-3 more minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve.
Serve with rice, chutneys, pickle and roti or naan.

I served mine with brown basmati rice and Makkai Ki Roti, a cornmeal-based roti bread. It's so good!! The bitter greens and creamy sauce go perfectly with the sweetness of corn and chewiness of roti bread! That recipe is also in 660 Curries. It's seriously a must-have!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I've Got a Crush...

...on Indian food! I have fallen in love with the wonderful flavors, varied textures, and interesting ingredients of Indian cuisine, so I've been making a lot of it lately. A whole lot. I checked out three Indian cookbooks from the library and have been researching it on the internet. I'm kind of nerding out about it. Anyway, here is one of my favorite dishes I've made so far, Cabbage Thoran. It's a dry curry with lots of mustard seeds and shredded coconut laced into simmered cabbage and spices. I've adapted it from a wonderful cookbook, Cuisines of India, and I'm just crazy about it! Cabbage Thoran (serves 6-8 with other dishes)
Adapted from Cuisines of India and various internet sites

2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
4 cups cabbage, shredded
2 Thai chilis, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
10 fresh curry leaves, chopped (if unavailable, use Thai basil leaves)
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs black mustard seeds
10 fresh curry leaves,chopped (or use 4 dried bay leaves)
1 large onion, diced
2 cups cooked yellow split peas--optional, to make as a main dish

In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut, cabbage, chilis, garlic, salt, spices (turmeric through cumin), and curry leaves. Stir to mix well.
In a large wok or deep pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds to the pan and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, until they sizzle and begin to pop. Add the curry leaves and onions and saute 3-5 minutes, until the onion softens and begins to brown. Add cabbage mixture to the pan and cook 8-10 minutes, until the cabbage has softened and cooked down a bit. You may need to add water, a few tablespoons at a time, during the cooking process if the mixture becomes too dry. Fold in the cooked split peas and add 1/2 cup water. Reduce heat to low and cover pan; let simmer for 3-5 minutes until the mixture has thickened slightly. Top with sprigs of fresh cilantro and serve with basmati rice, roti, and plenty of pickle and chutneys.

I served mine with hot mango pickle and a cooling cilantro raita! Balance! For this, and many, Indian recipes you will likely have to take a trip to your local Indian or Asian market. Those places are like field trips for me, they're so great...I get sucked in for at least an hour every visit!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Playing Catch-Up: Christmas Food!

WOW. I just realized I haven't posted in two whole months! That's slightly embarrassing, and just a bummer because I love blogging! I've been super busy with the holidays, traveling, and working, but my resolution for the new year is to blog regularly again! And that means taking pictures of my food again, too! I finally got my camera working, so that will be easier than just using my phone! Now I've just got to get back into the discipline of blogging. I'm making lots of good food....I'll just have to prove it now!

To get things rolling, I'll show you my Christmas was super traditional, which is how I usually like my holiday meals, and it was fantastic!!

The usual suspects (at least in the vegan world!): Tofurkey Roast, with roasted veggies, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, garlic-roasted Brussels sprouts, citrus cranberry sauce, and olive bread. Duh. And for dessert, Christmas cookies out the wazoo!
Clockwise from the left: Almond Crescents (adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe), Rocky Road Cookies (from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar) with the modification of subtracting white chocolate chips and adding Dandies vegan marshmallows!!, Vegan Caramel Delight Cookies--made with shredded sweet potatoes, my recipe here, and Chai Chocolate Chip Shortbread from VCIYCJ. I loved them all so much, I think I ate a dozen cookies on Christmas day. It had to be done!! If I had to pick a favorite....well, I just can't! Hope all your holidays were wonderful, too! Now it's back to normal life--and back to blogging for me!