Vegetable-Rich Pakora-Falafel Waffles

My savory breakfast project proceeds apace! This morning I created savory waffles that sit somewhere between pakora and falafel. I was inspired by the amazing Vegan Richa’s recipe, but made some substitutions and several tweaks that make the waffle even more nutritious (I threw in a lot of tofu and spinach, which are not in the original recipe). The outcome was superb–somewhere between pakora and falafel. I suspect it would be more pakora-like with cilantro, but parsley is what I had in the fridge.

In lieu of chickpea flour, I used the “vegan omelette mix” that is sold in Israel and is a mix of yellow dal flour, chickpea flour, and a few other ingredients. You can easily substitute with chickpea flour or besan, as in Richa’s original recipe. Here’s my version:

  • 1/2 cup cauliflower
  • 6 stalks green onion
  • 100g spinach
  • big handful parsley
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 package Hodo Soy tofu (about 150g)
  • 1 cup vegan omelette mix or legume flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ras-el-hanout
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • a few drops of olive oil for the waffle maker

Place all the vegetables and the tofu in the food processor and process to a coarse mix. Place in a bowl and add the legume flour, water, and spices. Mix again. Heat up your waffle maker while the mixture sits for a few minutes. Then, place a spoonful of mix in each waffle spot, drop some olive oil on top (to prevent the waffles from sticking to the other side) and close the lid. The waffles come out crunchy and delicious. I’m pretty sure this will be fantastic with other vegetable combinations.

A very cool variation, inspired by an online course I took in Korean temple cooking: Substitute all the vegetables and tofu for one big zucchini, half a cauliflower, and lots of scallions or leeks. Substitute all the spices for a big tablespoon of gochujang and a bit of salt. Cooks the same and tastes a lot like the wonderful traditional Korean pancakes.

Savory Oats

We have returned from a few days at Harbin Hot Springs, one of my family’s favorite spots for renewal and joy. We love soaking and swimming, taking in the natural forest (now young, green, and lush again in its recovery from the disastrous fire that destroyed the place a few years ago), and meeting delightful people. Every time I visit Harbin I come home with new insights, many of them gained from conversations with forward-thinking folks in the sacred waters. This time, I enjoyed seeing my son and other kids make friends and enjoy the pools, and appreciated a lot of examples of enlightened, mindful parenting around me.

One of the biggest changes at Harbin has been the elimination of Fern Kitchen, an enormous communal space where visitors could cook delectable plant-based meals and share them with the folks around them. The café and restaurant, in their former incarnation, are also gone, as is the little organic grocery store. Instead, Dancing Bear Café, operating from a few trailers near the blooming garden, offers wonderful plates, but is woefully short-staffed and wait times are, well, more conducive to the practice of contemplation when one is not the parent of a young child. This situation inspired us to try something a bit different: we opted for an enormous, vegetable- and protein-rich breakfast every morning, followed by eating just raw fruit and vegetables for the rest of the day. We were amazed by how well this felt – the afternoon slump was completely gone, we were full of energy and joy, and the breakfast did not feel heavy or cumbersome in the least.

I decided to continue the experiment at home, so this is my second day of eating a big savory breakfast, accompanied by a lovely oat matcha latte and a green juice. Today, inspired by a story my friend Serena told me about a breakfast she once made at a campsite, I opted for savory oats. Generally, I prefer savory to sweet foods, and this oatmeal is everything! It feels like a fiber-rich risotto with loads of vegetables. I ate it alongside our vegan chili from yesterday.

Please don’t let the longer cooking time of steel cut oats deter you – their texture is so much superior to that of rolled or flat oats! The secret is to boil them with water the night before, turn off the heat, and then wake up to a basically ready meal except for the toppings. The other advantage to this method is that, if your family members prefer sweet oats, you have everyone’s needs covered. Here’s what you need for 3-4 helpings for people with diverse preferences:

  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 cups water
  • a splash of water or plant milk (I like Oatly)
  • 3 cups spinach or kale
  • 1 stalk leek
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • Herby/garlicky seasoning (I’m fond of Stonehouse’s aglio olio, but you do you)
  • A little bit of the vegan cheese of your choice (I have Forager’s cashew parmesan and it is phenomenal)
  • a hefty spoonful of nutritional yeast
  • A sprinkling of hemp seeds
  • any fruit or nuts that your family members like on their sweet oatmeal

The night before you choose to have this breakfast, put the oats and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and just leave until morning (you don’t have to refrigerate.)

The next morning, wake up to a pot full of cooked steel cut oats! Add a splash of water or plant milk and reheat. In a separate pan, sauté the spinach, leek, and mushrooms in a little bit of water. Add the seasoning, nutritional yeast, vegan cheese, and hemp seeds, and then add about 1/2-2/3 cup of the cooked oats. Mix and see the cheese melt beautifully into your oat risotto. The remainder of the oats can be served with fruit or nuts according to other people’s preferences, though I pretty much guarantee that they’ll want to try yours.

My excitement about this plan comes also from reading Will Bulsiewicz’s Fiber Fueled and listening to his interesting interview on the Rich Roll Podcast. We are now determined to play the two microbiome-enriching games he suggests: eating 30 different plants every week and at least one type of fermented food every day. The above breakfast provides at least five different plants (more if you improvise on the toppings!), loads of protein, and a fermented food (the cheese.) Now I’m ready to tackle my day!

Homemade Green Chilled Soup

In the last few months, I’ve been enjoying lighter fare before lunch – usually green juices or a smoothie. This green chilled soup is my recreation of Lydia’s Alkalizing Soup, which I got to enjoy this summer at Rainbow Grocery as well as at Harbin. Sadly, the soup seems to have vanished from the shelves – but fear not, amigos, because I got your back and have managed to make it with my Vitamix at home. You blend it, serve it chilled, and top with a handful of pepitas or other seeds, a little swirl of cashew yogurt, and/or some nice sprouts. It makes a great breakfast or a light lunch alongside a salad with some beans or tofu.

For my WFPB and Forks Over Knives buddies: the avocado is absolutely essential and produces a wonderful texture. For everyone: this thing keeps for a couple of days in a mason jar in the fridge.

  • 1 small avocado, or 1/2 a large one
  • 2 Persian cucumbers
  • 4-5 kale leaves
  • big handful baby spinach
  • 4 celery sticks
  • big handful parsley
  • big handful cilantro
  • big handful basil
  • 1-2 stalks green onion
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1 lemon, peeled
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup water

Cut all veg into pieces. Place in blender; blend. Top with seeds, sprouts, or a bit of cashew yogurt. Enjoy cold!

Savory Green Quiches

In my continuing quest to introduce a high volume of greens into my breakfasts, I came up with a variation on the kuku sabzi theme: little quiches baked in a muffin pan. The ingredients are malleable and fungible, and you can basically do whatever you like with this, as long as you keep the ratio of flour to milk stable. You should feel free to pack as many greens and spices as you can. The thing loses some of its flavor in baking, kind of like bean-based meatballs, so you can really add as much flavor as you like. The more kala namak salt you put in, the eggier it will feel.

1 package (approx. 200g) baby spinach

6 big kale leaves

4 broccolini stems

2 tbsp chopped onion

3 garlic cloves

1/2 cup garbanzo/besan flour

1/2 cup Oatly Barista or other unsweetened plant milk

4 tbsp nutritional yeast

3 heaping tbsp Aglio Olio spice mix, or any similar seasoning

1 tbsp OMG, or similar seasoning

1 heaping tbsp kala namak

3 tbsp vegan parmesan, or a mix of ground nuts, hemp seeds, and nutritional yeast

Chop up the leaves a bit and put in food processor; process into tiny bits. Add all other ingredients except the vegan parmesan and process to a chunky texture. Spoon into muffin pan (you’ll have enough mixture for approximately 6 holes.) Sprinkle a little parmesan or nut mix on each quiche and press lightly with your fingers. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 mins, or until a pick or fork comes out dry.

Kuku Sabzi

In my continuing mission to introduce more greens into my breakfasts (previous attempts included lots of smoothie bowls) I came up with a wonderful solution that can be made ahead and provide convenient, protein- and nutrient-rich breakfasts for the whole week. Kuku Sabzi is a Persian dish of dense greens and herbs bound with egg. My version substitutes the egg with chickpea flour, plant milk, and olive oil, and incorporates lots of herbs and spices. You can make lots of variations, depending on the greens you have on hand. This version uses Stonehouse spice mixes, which I find incredibly useful.

  • 8 big collard leaves
  • 8 big kale leaves
  • 100g or so of spinach or baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened plant milk
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 heaping tbsp OMG (or your own combination of onion powder, garlic powder, and salt)
  • 1 heaping tbsp Aglio Olio (or your own Italian seasoning)

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a shallow, rectangular baking dish (I use this 9”x12” one, but anything will do) and line with parchment (don’t forget the parchment–this will pay off dividends at the end.)

Remove the stems from the collards and kale and tear into pieces. Place all the greens and herbs in your food processor and chop into tiny pieces–you may need to do this in batches.

Place all the chopped greens in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the chickpea flour, plant milk, olive oil, and spices, into an eggy-textured mixture. Transfer the mixture into the bowl with the greens and mix well with your hands, until the mixture binds the greens together. Then, transfer the lot into the baking dish. Using damp hands, push the mixture into the bottom of the dish, until it is very dense and covers the whole dish. Flatten the top.

Bake for about 45 mins, or until the kuku has solidified. Remove from oven, lift using the parchment, and gently place on a cooling rack. After it cools a bit, you can cut it into squares, triangles, or any other shape, and store in the fridge. This is delicious when eaten cold, straight from the fridge, or dipped into this fabulous dressing.

Vegan Sabih

Sabih, the sensational eggplant/egg/tahini/amba sandwich, is a mainstay in Israel, and there’s even a place that serves it in Oakland. It’s easy to make at home whenever you like if you have the main ingredients on hand. Here’s a vegan version:

  • 2 pitot (we make our own sourdough pitot, recipe some other time)
  • 1 eggplant
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • salt
  • 1/2 package firm or medium-firm tofu
  • 1 tsp kala namak salt
  • 1 tbsp chickpea flour
  • 1 tbsp plant milk
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp amba powder
  • 2 tbsp raw tahini
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, green onions, parsley, thinly sliced

Heat up the oven to 400 Fahrenheit. Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch rounds. Place on silicone baking sheet and top with minced garlic and salt.

Slice the tofu into very thin slices. Make a mixture out of the kala namak, chickpea flour, plant milk, and turmeric. Coat each tofu slice in the mixture on both sides. Place on silicone baking sheet alongside the eggplant. Bake for about 20 minutes.

While the eggplant and tofu are baking, mix the amba powder with some boiling water to make a bit of amba. Mix the tahini with lemon juice and garlic to make a bit of tahini. Slice all veg and herbs thinly.

Halve the pitot and toast them (if you like). Smear tahini and amba inside each pocket. Pack the pita full of tofu, eggplant, and vegetables. Serve alongside a nice salad with some mint tea.

Edamame-Green Pea-Avocado Spread

The world is full of horrors, and I’ve been writing and talking and agitating about them for weeks, but people have to eat, so here’s a new recipe. I wonder if you remember the Great Green Pea Guacamole Controversy of 2015. After Melissa Clark put the original recipe on NYT cooking, households and friends were torn apart. Jenn Segal theorizes that the reason this provoked such strong feelings has to do not only with the aura of old-fashioned health foisted on children, but also with a craving for authenticity and the overall sense that white people have unduly laid claim to Mexican food.

I can see both sides of this upheaval, and trust me, I’ve had my share of being on the purist side since coming to the U.S. in the context of what passes as “hummus” in the New Country (and keep in mind that, as a member of the food colonizers group back in the Old Country, I’m on very shaky moral ground here, so in the quest for authenticity and oppression it’s turtles all the way down.) Not only do the odd garlicky concoctions here taste nothing like hummus should, and have all kinds of odd toppings, some of them are called “hummus” when they have no chickpeas at all! What drives me bonkers about this is that the Arabic word for chickpea is hummus, so saying “white bean hummus” is like saying “white bean chickpea.” Just call it a bean spread and be done with it! In short, purists protesting pea proliferation, I get you, and in my defense, I have a winning excuse for why I made this delicious thing pictured above: Vegetable delivery day is tomorrow and I’m out of avocados.

The virus has been a powerful teacher in many areas of life, and in my cooking life, it taught me to use frozen vegetables. Getting fresh produce was difficult in the first few weeks, though the good folks at Albert & Eve performed truly heroic feats to feed their customers. The errors in judgment were mine–I hadn’t realized we would be eating all our meals at home, made from scratch (my food is so much better than delivery food), and I also hadn’t realized that there were three of us now, and the little one has, sometimes, a big appetite. So, the vegetables would sometimes run out before delivery day, and that’s when I started to rely on frozen beans and peas to supplement. They are cheap, tasty, easily available, and nutritious.

This dip is not the pea-guac recipe that’s been going around, in which the ratio strongly favors the avocados. Truly, given how few peas they add, it’s surprising that anyone noticed, let alone got upset. This thing, on the other hand, is mostly a bean spread, with the one avocado I had at home smashed into it for a little bit extra fat and creaminess. Also, I put in a lot more herbs, because I like things very herby, and I added za’atar, because if we’re throwing tradition down the wayside, let’s at least make it tasty. I’ve nattered on too long. Here, make this and be your own hero.

  • 1/2 package frozen, shelled edamame
  • 1 package green peas
  • juice of 2 limes
  • Big handfuls: fresh cilantro, parsley, and chives
  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 heaping tbsp good quality za’atar
  • sprinkle of salt

Place edamame and peas in a small pot and cover with boiling water. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until beans and peas are soft. Drain water. Place edamame and peas in food processor bowl with lime juice and herbs. Process to desired consistency (I like this a bit chunky, but without visible bean bits.) Transfer mix to a container and mash in the avocado. Mix with za’atar and salt. Serve on bread, lettuce leaves, a grain bowl, a salad, whatever float your boat.

P.S.: Yes, I baked the walnut sourdough. 50% whole wheat, 50% all purpose flour, 80% hydration, and for both loaves (1kg flour total): 150g starter, 24g salt, 200g chopped walnuts.

Vegan Sourdough Waffles

The sourdough enthusiasm all around me is inspiring! People are coming over to get starter, measuring their ingredients in grams, having a blast… and eating delicious bread! Along the way, they are encountering all the confusing websites and Facebook instructions that those of us who are sourdough oldtimers have already coped with. One question that keeps coming up is – what to do with discard?

Lots of things! I have a killer recipe for vegan sourdough banana pancakes. But thankfully, we now have a waffle iron! I bought this little number as a stocking stuffer for Chad in December and it works like a charm. There are apparently lots of things to do with a waffle maker–this is the latest craze – so it’s a useful appliance to have around.

The recipe is lightly modified from the one over at Holy Cow. I didn’t add sugar, and I didn’t mix my flax eggs properly. I also find that, with an active starter, you don’t really need baking soda. Finally, I simply forgot the vegetable oil, and it turned out delectable nonetheless, so I guess it’s unnecessary! Here goes:

  • 1/2 cup unfed sourdough starter
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup Oatly or other plant milk
  • 1 tsp kombucha (that’s what I had at home; apple cider vinegar would be preferable)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • 6 tbsp water

The evening before you hope to have this memorable breakfast, mix starter, flour, plant milk and kombucha/vinegar in a large bowl. Leave covered overnight to rise. In the morning, mix seeds with water (our grinder broke, so I just left them whole and they added a nice nutty flavor to the waffles.) After five minutes, add the salt and the flax/water mix to the waffle mix. Heat up the waffle iron and cook waffles according to the waffle iron instructions. Serve with maple syrup, cashew cream, and fruit, or with savory toppings.

These keep phenomenally well in the freezer, and can be quickly reheated in the waffle iron, which restores their toasty texture.

Smoothie Bowl Obsession

The bowl obsession continues! Here are just a couple of my bowls from the last few days, to give you an idea of what’s easily possible. It’s as delicious as it is pretty!

Mint-Choc-Chip

For a couple of days I’ve had rushed mornings, which required me to buy my smoothie rather than make it at home; which is how I found out that both Project Juice and Urban Remedy have tasty, natural versions of mint-chocolate-chip.

Inspired by those shakes, I made an even healthier version at home. I increased the green content and added different kinds of vegetables. The mango somehow rounds it up, and cocoa nibs make it into a fun treat. It came out delicious!

100g kale
95g celery (about two stalks)
90g cucumber (about a third of a big cucumber)
90g banana (one medium-to-large banana)
55g mango (half a mango)
2 tbsp chopped mint leaves
1 tsp maca powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
cocoa nibs to taste

Blend everything except the cocoa nibs and add them at the end (for a fun texture.)