Monday, August 18, 2008

Lentil Soup: Two ways

First, I made red lentil soup. Unfortunately (or fortunately, rather), it was so yummy I didn't take a photo before scarfing it down.

To make this, you will need:

1 onion, diced
Olive oil
1 cip split red lentils
4 cups water
1 carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 medium potato, diced into small pieces (optional)
Salt, pepper
1-2 teaspoons cumin (optional)
Turmeric to taste (optional)

Warm the olive oil in your soup pot. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add lentils, water, carrots, celery and potato (if using). Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes or until the lentils are cooked.

Add the other ingredients -- lemon, salt, pepper, etc. -- until the flavor is to your liking, then simmer for another 5 minutes. Most of the time I prefer a couple teaspoons of cumin and lots of freshly squeezed lemon juice. If I'm starting to feel ill, I'll add grated ginger. If I'm in the mood for zest, I add some chili and curry spices. Sometimes I add some coconut milk to make it super creamy. (In other words, add whatever you want. It's very difficult to screw up this recipe.)

With the leftovers, I did this:

Red lentil patty

I added matzoh meal to thicken the soup until it was firm enough to form into patties. (You could also use breadcrumbs if you don't have matzoh.) Then pan fry them in a little olive oil until cooked through and golden brown.

Midwestern meal

I wanted to make the kind of dinner I grew up eating in Dayton, Ohio -- except veganized and all organic, of course.

So last night's meal was tofu "fish sticks," tater tots and sweet peas.

Tofu "fish" sticks

As soon as Jason took a bite, he began to laugh.

"What's so funny?" I said.

"I don't know how you do it, but these are 100 times better than fish sticks."

They were.

I used this recipe from Vegan Lunchbox. I skipped the step where it said to put all the ingredients for the coating in a blender, since I was already using almond meal and not almond slices. I also had a little bit of trouble finding kelp granules; it turns out they are stocked in the spice section at the health food store, not the seaweed section.

Jason specifically requested sweet peas from a can, so I was finally able to use up that one can of peas that has been lurking in the pantry forever.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

In a hurry curry

It didn't take long to pull together this green curry, loosely based on this recipe.

Green curry

My fridge is low on fresh veggies right now, so I didn't have exactly what the recipe called for. Instead, I used baked Thai tofu, broccoli, green peppers and tons of mushrooms.

It was a satisfying dinner ... but I'm really looking forward to the leftovers for lunch.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Black beans and guac

Even though I was lucky enough to eat some wonderful meals while traveling, I couldn't wait to get home and return to my kitchen. It does my stomach good as much good as my heart. Plus, I had these black beans I needed to cook.

See, my friend Abby has been raving about a particular dried black bean for months now. She purchases them from a tiny little fruit stand somewhere in the wilderness between L.A. and Palm Springs, just off the highway. A couple weeks ago I finally stopped there and picked up a bag, even though I didn't have a chance to make them before I skipped town.

During my whole trip, I daydreamed about those black beans. I'm not even kidding. Everyone else in the world dreams up all kinds of pervvy stuff, and I sit around fantasizing about legumes.

So it wasn't more than an hour after my plane landed that I grabbed my dried beans and wooden spoon and got to work.

I asked Abby how her family prepares their black beans, and she replied with a text message:

"Boil cup of rinsed beans. No soak. In water with half an onion, half a green pepper, 1 bay leaf, salt and a lot of garlic. Like five cloves. Should simmer semi-covered for 1.5-2 hours."

I diced the onion and green pepper, because that's how I interpreted the message. Turns out that's not how Abby does it -- she puts the halves of onion and pepper in the pot, then removes them when the beans are done -- but it didn't matter. These were so, so good. I'm never going to soak and boil my beans again.

We also had avocados at the perfect ripe stage, so I served the beans on mini corn tortillas with an ample spoonful of guacamole.

Black bean tostadas

Oh, I also had a couple purple tomatillos laying around, and I didn't know what to do with them. I didn't have enough to do a purple twist on salsa verde, so I just smooshed them into my next batch of guac. They were mellow in flavor, with only the slightest tang, so it was a nice accessory for the avocado. Aren't they pretty?


Road food: On the go

It feels like I've been traveling a lot lately. And when I'm not traveling, I've been going out with friends and celebrating my birthday ... and not spending a lot of time in my own kitchen.

The good news is that I've sampled a lot of great vegan food all over the place. Not all salads either!

Here's a sample.

From The Spot in Hermosa Beach, once Paul and Linda McCartney's favorite hangout:

Burrito baby

This was black beans, tofu, collard greens and steamed veggies, all topped with the restaurant's signature savory sauce:

Beans and savory sauce

This was a roasted veggie pizza during a random dinner in Dayton, Ohio:

Vegan pizza

Here's the very best veggie burger I've ever tasted -- from the Northstar Cafe in Columbus, Ohio:

Veggie burger

The spicy vegan burrito at Casa Nueva in Athens, Ohio. Nearly everything on the plate is from local organic farmers. (The crappy lighting doesn't really do this dish justice):

Casa scramble

Casa is an old favorite hangout from my college days, so my friends and I returned for brunch the next day too. Here's the vegan breakfast scramble:

Casa vegan burrito

Vegan garlic breadsticks, plus spicy marinara dipping sauce, from Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio:


The "I Was a Teenage Vegan Werewolf" pizza from Avalanche in Athens:

Avalanche vegan pizza


And finally, a truly awesome 3 a.m. red bean burrito from Burrito Buggy in Athens, another favorite from when I was in college:

Burrito Buggy


I swear, I really do eat more than burritos and pizza, even though there's plenty of photographic evidence to the contrary ...