Veggie Sushi

I was going to write a post about the latest Plata hearing, vaccines, and the sad stories that the Davis Vanguard has been uncovering (great journalistic job, guys!) but my heart is heavy, so we rallied our spirits by having family sushi-making night. I only wish we could share the tray with everyone we are in communication with, including families, currently incarcerated folks, formerly incarcerated folks, frontline health workers… after all ***this*** (insert expansive hand motion here) is over, perhaps we can all get together as a community for a potluck?

In the meantime, I’m extending all of you an invitation to our upcoming symposium about mass incarceration and the COVID-19 crisis. Attendance is free, but you do have to register to participate. And hey, we give MCLE credits!

Re the sushi: it’s pretty easy if you have the right ingredients on hand. Here’s what I use:

  • 2 cups Sukoyaka Genmai (the best gently milled brown rice, which the wonderful Tanaka Sensei introduced our family to)
  • 4 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp vegan furikake (we have some but you can make your own)
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 carrot
  • 3-inch cube of butternut squash
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 block of Hodo Soy tofu
  • 1 package nori sheets
  • sushi rolling mats
  • saran wrap

Cook rice in instant pot or rice cooker. Get out of cooker, let cool to room temperature, then mix with mirin and furikake.

Image may contain: food

While rice is cooking, slice vegetables into very thin matchsticks. The butternut squash can be cut thinly and then baked until soft.

Place a bowl with tap water near the rice, veg, and sushi mat. Cover the sushi mat with a piece of saran wrap, then put a nori sheet on top. Moisten you hands in the water bowl; take a few big spoonfuls of rice and layer them, patting them down on the nori (1/4-inch thickness) and leaving about 2 inches at the end. Then, toward the beginning, place the vegetable sticks of your choice.

There are lots of tutorials on how to roll sushi–anyone will do. The lesson I learned was not to overfill. Use some water on a fingertip to seal.

Take your best knife, moisten it with tap water, and resolutely slice up the roll into little maki sushi (each about an inch long.) Sprinkle furikake or black sesame if desired. Enjoy!

Grilled Eggplants Stuffed with Impossible Meat and Pomegranate

For today’s Christmas Eve brunch, we made a version of Oz Telem’s new recipe. I think ours benefits from the fact that the eggplants were grilled, and from some little tweaks to the recipe. Because I grew up not far from where Jesus spent his childhood, I imagine he had lots of fresh grilled vegetables (not eggplant, though) but he and his family probably ate lots of fish rather than vegan meats. We used Impossible meat, but you could use Beyond Beef as well.

  • Two medium-sized lightweight eggplants
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp baharat
  • 1/2 package Impossible/Beyond ground
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 large pomegranate
  • parsley for garnish

Fire up the grill. Gently peel the eggplants in a zebra pattern – removing lengthwise stripes of peel, but keeping some stripes on, so that the eggplant retains its shape. Place on the grill and grill for about 15 mins, taking care to char on all sides.

While the eggplant is grilling, cut the pomegranate in half; juice one half and extract the seeds from the other half (save those for later). Heat up the olive oil in a pan. Add the onions and cook until translucent. After 2-3 minutes, add the garlic and pine nuts. Cook for about 30 seconds. Then, add the Impossible/Beyond, the pomegranate juice, and the baharat. Sauté until the ground feels cooked and the spices are incorporated throughout (about 4-5 mins.)

Make a slit in each eggplant and stuff each one with half of the Impossible/Beyond mixture (it’ll be easy to fill, because the insides of the eggplant should be already fairly mushy.) Cook for another 10 mins or so on the grill, until the flavors incorporate. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and parsley on top and serve with tchina (“tahini”) and other grilled vegetables. Happy Holidays!

Image may contain: people sitting, table, candles and food

The blog has been an effort to integrate works of compassion from three areas of my life–compassionate work, compassionate mindfulness, and compassionate cooking–so I hope the occasional recipe/mindfulness practice is not too surprising to the many folks reading here because of the COVID-19 crisis in prisons. We are thinking of those of you behind bars, and of those of you missing your incarcerated loved ones, and we hope you will soon get to cook and break bread together on the outside.

Einkorn Tortellini and Ravioli

About a year ago, my colleagues Dario Melossi and Máximo Sozzo invited me to an academic workshop in Bologna, and I had a fantastic time! We talked about the political economy of punishment and, in the evenings, I took in art films in Piazza Maggiore, the historical town square, enjoyed a superb opera mini-production at the Basilica di San Petronio, perused the wonderful bookstores, and enjoyed the phenomenal university museums (I have especially vivid memories from this terrific exhibit about the colonization of African art.) And, of course, we ate a lot, because Bologna is as much a food town as it is a university town. One of the restaurants near my hotel bore the sign “sempre aperto,” which seemed apt for the entire city–fresh pasta available at any moment. The tortellini, a city specialty, were especially wonderful, though it was quite a challenge to find vegan pasta! I had the good fortune to take two wonderful pasta-making workshops, one with hilarious and energetic restaurateur Antonio and the other with cosmopolitan and compassionate Sara, and could not wait to get home and veganize the recipes.

This took a bit longer than expected, because of kid and job, but today I decided to finally do it. These are not 100% faithful to the traditional recipe. For one thing, they are vegan (the traditional recipe is 100g flour per 1 egg); for another, the fillings are my versions for the tasty treats I ate there. And, importantly, I did not use the recommended “tipo 00” pastry flour, but whole grain einkorn flour.

Forget what you know about horribly-textured whole-wheat pasta; einkorn works wonderfully in this recipe. The flour came from Bluebird Grain Farms. I picked it because it had low gluten content, and therefore would be better in this sort of recipe than as a standalone in a sourdough loaf (I’ll mix it with something more gluten-filled, like rye or bread flour, when I make a loaf.) It turned out fantastic–nutty, complex flavors, fresh and delicious fillings, and lots of leftovers that freeze well. I made two versions – it’s a little more difficult to make the tortellini, but you pick up dexterity as you go along.

I made these as a nice vehicle for the new shiitake mushrooms that are popping out of my mini-farm. I’m growing four different kinds of edible mushrooms in our downstairs bathroom from kits by Far West Fungi and it’s one of the most enjoyable homegrown food projects I’ve done. We’re fascinated by the process and the mushrooms are incredibly fresh and flavorful. This is not a quick thing to make, but it’s very gratifying. Be your own hero and give it a try!

Dough

  • 300g whole einkorn flour
  • 150g water
  • 2 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Place flour and salt in a large bowl; shape a hill and make a well in the middle. Drizzle the water and olive oil in the middle, gradually pinching in more and more of the flour. When the dry and wet ingredients are mixed, knead for about five minutes. You’ll have a beautiful, smooth, pliable and stretchy ball of dough. Wrap in foil, or in an eco bag, and place in fridge for at least half an hour.

Filling 1: Shiitakes

  • 3 cups fresh mushrooms–I used shiitake
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp mushroom powder (Trader Joe’s makes a nice product–any brand would do, or you can omit this entirely)
  • 1/2 tsp truffle salt
  • 2 tbsp Miyoko’s cream cheese (plain) or other nut cheese

Place mushrooms, onion, and garlic in a food processor bowl and process to break into little bits. Heat up olive oil in a pan and add the processed mushroom mixture. Add mushroom powder and truffle salt. Sauté for about 5-7 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked and the whole thing tastes wonderful. Transfer to mixing bowl and refrigerate. Once it cools, mix with cream cheese.

Filling 2: Kale

  • 1 package (approx. 10 large leaves) kale
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Bitchin’ Sauce or other spicy nut cheese

Remove kale stems and place leaves in food processor bowl. Process to break into tiny bits. Heat up olive oil and sauté garlic for 30 seconds. Add the kale and sauté for 5-7 mins, until soft. Transfer to mixing bowl and refrigerate. Once it cools, mix with Bitchin’ Sauce or any nut cheese you like. If you only have plain, you can season it to taste.

Assembly

Get dough ball out of the fridge and prepare a large floured surface and a roller pin. Divide ball into two halves. Roll one half very thin and slice into 2 1/2-inch squares. Gently spoon about 1/2 tsp of shiitake filling in the middle, fold diagonally into a triangle and press ends. Now, wrap the two bottom corners of the triangle around your finger, like a ring, and press together. That’s the traditional tortellini shape. Keep going until you’re out of dough/filling.

Now, roll the other half of the dough very thin and, with a regular-sized mason jar, cut circles. Gently spoon 1/2 tsp of kale filling in the middle, fold down the middle into a half circle, press the circumference, and gently press in a fork to create cute ridges. Refrigerate (or freeze).

Cooking

Boil water in a middle-sized pot. When water reaches a rolling boil, gently place pasta in the water. Allow to cook 3-4 minutes or until the pasta floats, then remove with a slotted spoon. Serve with a light cashew cream sauce, Bitchin’ Sauce, or just olive oil and garlic.

Pandemic Passover: Our Virtual Seder Table

The Torah spoke of four sons: one wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who does not know how to ask. Each of these sons calls for a different approach in the telling of the Exodus story. This year, as I made preparations for co-hosting (with my colleague and friend Dorit Reiss) our first-ever Zoom seder for dozens of participants, I wondered which son I was.

The wise son would deeply ponder the minutiae and symbolism of the Passover rituals. As the wise son, I reflected on the meaning of a holiday about overcoming slavery, rediscovering freedom, a rather hefty dosage of retribution, and delaying gratification, amidst the shelter-in-place order. The holiday took on a new meaning, as my definitions of slavery, freedom, and the promised land have been shaped by current events. Mostly, I have been thinking about the meaning of freedom in the context of prisons and COVID-19 health risks within them, and recommitting to the fight to save as many people as possible, both behind bars and on the outside.

The wicked son excludes himself from the celebration. I don’t see this as “wicked,” necessarily, but rather as the comparing mind. “Sure, you celebrate all you want; you don’t have little kids;” “Sure, you have it easy, your kids are small, mine have to do homework.” “Sure, knock yourself out and watch Netflix, child-free person.” “Sure, enjoy your family happiness while I rot here in solitude.” The comparing mind alienates and isolates us from our friends and neighbors. Let’s drop all that and remember that there is no “other.”

The simple son asks, “what’s this all about?” I had to go back to basics in creating a virtual PowerPoint haggadah for us to use during the ceremony–remembering old passages, enjoying the familiar turns-of-phrase even before engaging with the deeper meanings.

The son who does not know what to ask is silent. But in my case, the silence was an industrious one and full of preparations.

What’s on our happy Oaxaca-inspired seder plate? Celery, hot sauce pickles (in lieu of horseradish), haroset balls (combining any dried fruit and nuts at home with a grated apple in a food processor and making balls, then rolling them in coconut), and the classic tofu eggless salad in lieu of the egg. And the orange, you ask? Here’s the story. As we’ve been co-leading the Seder as two women for about twenty years–Dorit emceeing and I putting together the music–I think an orange more than belongs on our seder plate!

Shavuot

Check out our awesome Shavuot table! We just finished hosting our Shavuot party, which is apparently not a huge deal in the United States. I suspect there are two reasons: its lack of proximity to a heavily commercialized Christian holiday (this, after all, is how Hanukkah became such a big deal) and its strong ties to the land (it’s a harvest holiday.) In kibbutzim and moshavim there’s often a nice parade of first fruits of the year (including the babies born that year) and elsewhere in the country people celebrate with a dairy meal. Why dairy? Apparently, the word חלב״ chalav” (milk), in Jewish numerology, adds up to 40, and Moses was on Mount Sinai 40 days.

I took the challenge seriously and put together a holiday party for our friends featuring a whole array of vegan cheeses, which I learned how to make in Noa Shalev’s awesome vegan cheese course (you should take it, so cough up the 350 NIS and do it.) A lot of improvisation went into this – my cheese flavors are original inventions, save for the spirulina one, and my raw cashew cheesecakes are variations on the lemon-lavender cake I made a couple of weeks ago following Noa’s recipe. This time I made mango-basil cake and strawberry-thyme cake. All I did was replace the flavoring. I glanced at one of my new books, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, to match fruit and herbs, but I find that I already have a pretty good gut feeling about combinations.

Anyway, from bottom to top: green salad with avocado, nectarines, and strawberries, dressed in quince vinegar from Nan at Vermont Quince; spiralized salad of cucumber, carrot, beet, and radish, dressed in a mix of good mustard and Nan’s quince salsa; cauliflower ceviche; “chevre” cheeseballs flavored with nigella, chimichurri, za’atar, zchug, and ras-el-hanout; leek-mushroom quiche with chickpea base; vegan lasagna with tofu ricotta: four hard cheeses, flavored with spirulina, turmeric-cumin, miso, and garlic-zchug; breads and crackers; and the aforementioned raw cakes.

A good time was had by all!