Friday, June 19, 2009

Zucchini spaghetti

It's sweltering out there, and you want something fast, easy, and delicious that won't make your kitchen hotter than it already is. This recipe was inspired by smittenkitchen, and is much like Deb's, only I made it for one and exchanged basil for a mixture of chives and green onions, since I didn't have fresh basil. Here's my version:

Zucchini spaghetti

fistful of wholewheat spaghetti about the diameter of a quarter
approximately 1/2 zucchini (grocery store size), slivered with a mandoline or by hand
scant 1/4 cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove, chopped
3 green onions, white and green parts, slivered
chives (optional)
crushed red pepper
salt and black pepper
almonzano (see yesterday's post)

Put the spaghetti on to boil. When it's nearly ready, heat the olive oil in a small skillet on medium heat, then add the garlic and red pepper and cook just until the garlic and pepper are fragrant.

Add the green onions and chives and remove from heat; you don't want them cooked, just warm, and you do want the garlic to stop cooking and not scorch. Meanwhile, drop the zucchini into the boiling water with the pasta and immediately pour the whole contents of the pot into a colander to drain. Slide the drained pasta and zucchini back into the pot and add the olive oil/spice mixture, with salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently and serve topped with almonzano.

You want a heavy hand with the olive oil; not only is it lubricating the pasta, but it is imparting its own flavour to the dish. If there's some left at the bottom of your bowl, sop it up with a crust of bread and rejoice.

I had this with a green salad topped with tahini-lemon sauce. The recipe for this sauce is in the public consciousness, I believe:

Tahini-lemon sauce

1/3 cup tahini
1 clove garlic, crushed or pressed
juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Add water, stirring or whisking between each addition, until the sauce is pale and silky. The more you stir, the thicker it becomes as it emulsifies. For a salad dressing, a thinner sauce is nice, but this sauce is extremely versatile, great on cooked vegetables or couscous, in a wrap, chilled as a dip for pita bread or crudités or both (it will thicken as it chills), or just eaten slowly with a spoon, like ice cream, it's that good.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sorrel-Hazelnut Pesto (and Lemon Pepper Tofu Redux)

What is sorrel? It's an herb (or a herb, depending on where you live) that in my world isn't often seen outside my garden. It's a perennial, extremely easy to grow, hardy, doesn't attract pests, and non-invasive but it does get bigger every year and is propagated best by dividing. I actually tried to dig it out two years ago during a garden renovation, but missed some bits, and you know how it is, the survivors get to live, it's one of the earliest plants to unfurl out of the frozen Canadian soil, and it's good to eat. This is what it looks like right now, more or less at its growth peak for the year:

Sorrel is hardy and yet tender. When the leaves are exposed to the kind of heat that is generated by a stove, they break down into mush, which is why you never see recipes for "braised sorrel" or "boiled sorrel" but only for "sorrel sauce." It's also good as a salad herb, and raw has a tart, lemony taste that is pleasant, but you want to mix it with other kinds of greens.

But there's more to sorrel than "sorrel sauce." Here's a recipe from me:

Sorrel-Hazelnut Pesto

2 cups sorrel leaves, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/3 cup parsley
1/3 cup hazelnuts, lightly roasted (skin on is okay)
1/8 cup hazelnut oil (or olive oil)
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Put everything into a food processor and grind it up; this recipe makes about 1 cup.

If you're used to basil-based pesto, you will find this quite mild. I like to mix it with about 1/3 part "almonzano" (vegan parmesan) just before serving.

Almonzano (by Bryanna Clark Grogan, who deserves to go to heaven just for this recipe)

Use a food processor or mini-chopper or spice mill for this recipe, rather than a blender.

1 cup chopped peeled almonds
4 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
2 tsp light soy or chickpea miso
1/2 tsp salt

Process the ingredients until as fine as possible. Stir to get rid of any lumps. Place in a covered container or shaker and keep refrigerated.

If you're not familiar with this ode to joy, what are you waiting for? Remember the "parmesan" you used to shake out of the Kraft container as a kid? This is the same thing, only tastier, and vegan! (I'm taking the liberty of exchanging the walnuts in the link for the almonds in the original Nonna's Italian Kitchen recipe because I love love love the latter so much and I apologize if I am infringing copyright by doing so. Nonna's Italian Kitchen is a great cookbook—I own it, and if you don't, you should.)

To continue with the recipe, then, cook your pasta—I used funghetti because that's what I had, but any small pasta shape will do (here's an awesome link on small pasta shapes). Save some pasta cooking water (for two people about 1/3 cup), and drain the pasta. Pour it back into the pot, add about an equal amount of lima beans and the reserved pasta water, and as much of the pesto/almonzano mixture as seems good to you, stirring gently with a rubber spatula and tasting as you go. You may need to add more salt.

The lemon pepper tofu has been preying on my mind, so I did a variation on it today. The variation consisted in marinating the tofu in a mixture of lemon juice, lemon peel, garlic, and olive oil, and then mixing the lemon pepper with some whole-wheat flour and frying the tofu instead of baking it. It was tasty, but different:

I had some of the marinade left over, so I parboiled a julienned carrot in the pasta water as it was heating up and made a little carrot-cilantro-sunflower sprout salad. Friends, everybody who has a bird feeder has sunflower sprouts galore just now. Yes, I am going to let some of them grow. No, I cannot let all of them grow (my dad has already characterized my gardening style, better known to myself as "genius," as "chaos"). Yes, you can eat them. Yes, they rock! And they're cute, too!

So here's the whole deal all brought together:

Szechuan Noodle Salad with Soba, Avocado and Cashews

…from Rebar's ModernFoodCookbook. I'm addicted to this stuff. Chilled noodle salad is one of those dishes it took me a long time to try, but once I did, I was hooked forever. The dressing is to die for—the recipe makes more than you need, but it stores well, and in fact it's even better after spending some time in the refrigerator. If you've got some dressing already made up, it's five minutes to dinner. I subbed out the honey with some homemade jalapeno syrup that was intended to be jalapeno jelly but didn't quite jell. No matter, it has its uses.

This recipe calls for hijiki seaweed. Seaweed is another one of those things. One of those things, I'm hoping, like coffee and cilantro, that almost no one likes the first time they try but that mysteriously grow on you so that you suddenly start to crave them. I'm so there with coffee, I'm there with cilantro, and I'm there with nori even (which isn't actually seaweed but algae).

I didn't have hijiki on hand, but I did have wakami, so that's what I used. Wakami is usually sold in dried form. Since I'm still hesitating on the hither bank of the seaweed Rubicon, I've had mine for a while, but it doesn't seem to age. It takes about five minutes to soak back to a truly amazing apparent freshness. Here's the before/after shot:

The soaking seaweed lets off a smell that is breath-stoppingly marine…the exact scent of…let's see, seaweed washed up on a beach? The actual taste, though, is quite mild, and its texture much less rubbery than you might expect.

But I still prefer nori…

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


These are the crepes from Vegan Brunch, the only variation being that I substituted durum atta (chapatti) flour for the all-purpose flour, mostly because, reading the recipe, I imagined they would be more like chapatti, but they really were astonishingly crepe-y, soft and yet with an eerily egglike surface and cohesion. I cooked them in a non-stick skillet, which I really only use for delicate 100% chickpea flour crepes and the like, but they would have been fine in cast iron. Don't be afraid; these are quick and easy to make and work with. I was cooking for one, so I used my Magic Bullet and didn't even have a blender to clean out afterwards. Half a recipe made three large crepes. Here's the cooking process:

The crepe just poured:

The edges curl up...

Then you turn it over and cook the other side...

The stuffing is leftover Red Braised Seitan from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Authentic Chinese Cuisine. The picture unfortunately doesn't express how tender, spicy and sweet it is, and how incredibly easy to make. I'll blog the process one of these days, but this braising method is now my favorite way with seitan.

The crepes are topped with just a little sweet chili sauce because the filling is already very flavorful, with pan-fried sweet potatoes on the side.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lemon Pepper Tofu, Quinoa Corn Salad

Tonight's meal is brought to you by:
Isa Chandra Moskowitz – Vegan Brunch - Lemon Pepper Tofu

Rebar – ModernFoodCookbook – Quinoa Corn Salad

Madhur Jaffrey – World Vegetarian - Boiled Beets and Beet Greens with a Horseradish Dressing

My lemon pepper (from Costco) has a lot of salt in it, so next time I'll go easier on it, or dilute it with some whole wheat flour.

All the dressings and sauces in the Rebar cookbook that I've tried so far are outstanding, worth making extra for dipping and drizzling later. This recipe is no-fat, and it was a delicious balance of sweet and tart.

I have been cooking from Madhur Jaffrey's recipes for 25 years and they have never let me down. World Vegetarian is a new purchase, and I'm anticipating with great pleasure working my way through it, especially the large and detailed section on flatbreads!

Debts of gratitude

This blog is dedicated to the generous and hardworking people who make their ideas, recipes, and techniques available for free in this wonderful new media.

Live long and prosper, vegans of the Net!