Friday, September 26, 2008

Sweet potato and cannellini bean hummus

For me, one of the harder parts of veganism is in the sandwich department. How often can we eat hummus (well, actually, maybe every day would be fine for me)? How can we add some variety that will also appeal to more skeptical (usually omnivorous) friends and family? I am finding more and more recipes for spreads that appeal on every level.

The other day I made this dip from sweet potato and canned white beans. The recipe is from Vive le Vegan, a nice vegan cookbook with a special section on food for babies (as well as larger sections on breakfast and baked goods than I usually find in vegan cookbooks).

It has a slightly sweet taste, is good as a dip or a spread. It is very easy to make with a blender or food processor. It is going into my list of spreads I will make again.

In case you want to run out and get the ingredients before you get the cookbook, it contains cannellini beans, cooked yam, lemon or lime juice, garlic, olive oil, hot sauce, salt, pepper, toasted pine nuts, fresh cilantro (optional garnish).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Super Simple Soup

In one episode of Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares (or it might be the American version, Kitchen Nightmares), Gordon Ramsey is faced with a chef who likes to overcomplicate dishes. He challenges him to a taste test: both he and the chef will create a broccoli soup, using whatever ingredients they want (in addition to the broccoli). Others will then do blind taste tests and let them know which they prefer.

The chef created a cream of broccoli soup with something like fifteen ingredients (I'm not kidding). Gordon, on the other hand, used fresh broccoli, water, and salt. I think it was water but it may have been broth. Pretty sure it was water. You can guess it: Ramsey's simple soup won the contest, hands down.

I decided to go for it myself. I used frozen broccoli (a no-no for Gordon, which I do understand, but this is all about convenience and in this case I do not think it sacrifices flavor) and a quart of vegetable stock from the shelf. I brought the broth to a boil, tossed in about a third of a bag of broccoli (the smaller bag), cooked until the broccoli was done, then put it all in the blender. I sprinkled some cajun seasoning on top. Pepper would have been good, too, or paprika. It really was delicious and so very easy to make.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Simple Soft Tacos

Here's a simple, tasty taco recipe.

Taco Meat:
  • 12 oz can of pinto beans
  • 8 oz jar of salsa
  • 8 oz water
  • 1 cup TVP dry crumbles
  • packet of taco seasoning
Everything Else (all are optional):
  • Hot sauce
  • 4 green onions
  • 1/2 cup shredded soy cheese
  • 1/4 cup soy sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • 2 chopped tomatoes
  • guacamole or avocados
  • package of tortillas

  1. Heat a large skillet on the stove-top.
  2. Add everything listed for taco meat above into the skillet and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce heat to medium and stir frequently until liquid reduces to your liking.
  4. Warm tortillas in microwave.
  5. Make your own taco and enjoy!
You can serve this with a side salad, corn, rice, or whatever you like.

(The recipe doesn't come from Vegan Planet, shown in the photo, though I do highly recommend that cookbook.)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Get dressed quickly but carefully

I had lunch at a restaurant today. The salad was made of lettuce still glistening with water, along with shredded carrots and a few cucumber slices. The weak dressing was on the side. As I bit into this concoction it occurred to me that many people don't care for salads because this is what they think they are. Yet even in a restaurant, even with average cooks with little time, they can be much more.

"God is in the details", they say. I think cooking is in the details. Small details, just a matter of paying attention.

My mother first told me about salads. She told me to use a wooden salad bowl and olive oil, because olive oil does not get rancid, whereas other vegetable oils do. Actually, olive oil does go rancid. The various so-called experts seem to disagree on whether the use of olive oil to "season" a wooden salad bowl is good practice. I think the best bet is to use food-grade mineral oil for seasoning an unfinished bowl but go ahead and use olive oil in your salads. Do a quick wash and dry after eating up the salad and let the bowl air dry. Never put wooden bowls (or utensils) in the dishwasher.

My stepmother took me farther into the salad creation world, showing me how to create a classic dressing. She made this salad every day that I knew her and I doubt anyone eating it ever tired of it.

If you have a wooden bowl you can use this method for making a simple classic salad (scroll down farther for the quicker version, though; this is vegan convenient, after all):

Smash a clove of garlic with a large chef's knife (or with some kind of garlic crusher). Place it in the wooden salad bowl. Use a wooden spoon to smash it up more in there. Add salt - 1/2 to 1 tsp, more if you like - and use it as a grinder to grind the garlic more.

Add about a teaspoon or more of dry mustard, grind that together a bit, then pour in olive oil. The standard formula calls for three parts oil to one part vinegar; let your own taste be your guide (you can adjust later). So start with about 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil. Smash the garlic and mustard, salt, and oil around the bowl until it is an opaque blend. There can be bits of garlic lying around. If you want to take out some of those bits go ahead. Depends on your love of garlic.

Whisk in 1/8 c red wine vinegar, or less. Taste, add pepper, adjust seasonings.

To make the salad:

Use prewashed baby spinach, romaine, or other good quality greens. Iceberg lettuce is useless for nutrition and has no flavor. If these greens are wet for some reason dry them with a clean dish towel. This is one of those steps that really do matter. Wet salad greens do not a great salad make. Tear the greens into the bowl. Add any other ingredients you like, but if you use tomatoes or other similarly watery vegetables, remove the watery seeds first so you don't dilute the taste.

Take wooden salad forks and toss, coating the ingredients with the dressing from the bottom of the bowl.


Put 1 clove garlic, 1 tsp dry mustard, 1/3 c red wine vinegar, 2/3 c extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper in blender. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Tear fresh dry greens into bowl. Add as much dressing as you prefer, and toss together. Serve.