I’m home after a very long workday, which followed an all-night grading session; it’s been a good day, but I’m wiped out and ready to go to bed early. Happily, it’s super easy to whip up a quick dinner soup when one has recently cooked pinto beans.
The weather in the magical city of San Francisco has been, well, unpredictable. This morning started with more than a drizzle of rain, then the sun came out, and now it’s foggy again. And quite cold, too.
One sure way to overcome the cold is eating soup. At first I thought I’d make some lentil soup, but then I remembered the delicious tomato soup with rice that the lovely people at the Tel Aviv University cafeteria used to make. I decided to do the same, with three healthy twist: using about a cup of leftover ratatouille from yesterday (it was delicious and one day will merit a post of its own), cooking the soup with brown rice, and using quinoa. Here goes.
3 garlic cloves 1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked 1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked 1 can Muir Glen diced tomatoes (the fire roasted variety is particularly yummy) 1 large heirloom tomato 1 cup leftover cooked vegetables (optional) 1 healthy handful of parsley
Mash up the garlic, chop up tomato and parsley. Place all of them, and the leftover vegetables, in a big pot. Add the grains and the water. Bring to a boil, then cover pot and cook for another 30 mins. or until grains are soft. Do not be afraid to overcook; the rice holds up quite nicely in the soup, and the comfort food taste actually improves if the rice is nice and soft.
Stay warm! When Mark Twain said the coldest winter he ever had was the summer he spent in San Francisco, he wasn’t kidding. 6 cups water
Despite the heat and moisture floating around the Tel Aviv area, we felt like having spaghetti bolognese today. The recipe is rather easy, and if you make a large quantity, you can freeze it for future use. It uses soy flakes, or TVP, which is a lovely (and cheap!) substance. It’s important to use the smaller TVP pieces that have a similar texture to ground meat. While the taste may not be exactly the same (honestly, I wouldn’t remember; I’ve been vegetarian for fifteen years), great things can be achieved using organic canned tomatoes and herbs.
1 1/2 cups soy flakes/TVP 2 tbsps olive oil 4 large, chopped garlic cloves 1 tbsp schug or hot sauce 3 large, ripe tomatoes 1 can organic canned tomato cubes 2 tbsps fresh oregano 1 tbsp thyme 1 tbsp rosemary a bit of salt (optional)
Place soy flakes in a large pot with fresh water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat somewhat and cook for a few minutes, until flakes are soft and the whole thing looks like a (rather unappetizing) porridge. Strain out the water in a collander.
Heat up olive oil in a large pan or wok and add chopped garlic and schug or hot sauce. Sautee a bit, until fragrance is released. Then, add the cooked and drained soy flakes. Mix them up with the other ingredients and keep cooking, stirring occasionally. The less water in the flakes, the faster this will happen. Do not expect the flakes to brown like meat; just dry’em up a bit and mix well with the aromatics.
Then, add the chopped fresh tomatoes, the canned tomatoes and the herbs (and salt, if desired). Continue cooking for about ten to fifteen minutes, or until most liquids evaporate and you’re left with a lovely vegan sauce. You can cook your pasta at the same time, then mix’em together in the wok, or layer pasta in the place and place sauce on top. Enjoy!
My favorite wrap, these days – one that does not require any sophisticated cooking and relies on store-bought stuff – consists of the following delicious combination:
Sprouted Corn Tortillas!
Any kind of stone-ground mustard!
Tons and tons of fresh salad greens from the market!
Baked Tofu, thinly sliced!
A good substitute for a sandwich, this is something you could not only eat at home, but wrap and take with you. And, given how busy I am (and the lack of time to cook to my heart’s content), it’ll have to do for a while.
Have you had any of those horrible nights, when, say, you break up with your partner, or someone does something horrible to you, or you have the flu and feel miserable? Some folks lose their appetite when confronted with such miseries; that has never been the case with me. When I’m upset, I really like to eat – and preferrably something nice and creamy and comforting. My top choice, in my twentysomethings, for situations like this – mashed potatoes.
In these days of crazy carb counting, folks tend to look down on the humble potato, and see it as a blob of carbs out there to get us and live in our thighs. Well, potatoes themselves are not extremely calorie-rich, and while they do consist of starch, there’s also good quality fiber in them. However, we do need to think of the relatively recent (and sound) nutritional recommendation to eat foods whose glycemic index is low; that is, foods that become sugars in a slower process and thus do not make our blood sugar level rise and crash like crazy. Potatoes happen to have quite a high glycemic index. My solution? Mix them up with sweet potatoes, and have a beautiful and tasty light-orange colored mash.
6 large potatoes 3 large sweet potatoes water 2 cups vegetable broth 3-4 spoons of olive oil, or butter onions, fried (optional)
Wash and scrub potatoes and sweet potatoes (do not peel! mash with peels is good stuff), put in a large pot, and cover with water. Add vegetable broth. Cook for about forty minutes, or until all roots are soft and can easily be pierced with a fork. Transfer to a bowl, and then mash them with a masher, or with any other handy tool. As you mash, add in the oil or butter (if you’re using butter – I prefer goat butter). Also, gradually pour in up to one cup of the cooking liquid, which tastes “brothey” and nice. The additional liquids work just as well as heavy cream or milk, and will make the mash fluffy and complex-tasting. When done, add black pepper to taste, and if you like fried onions, you can decorate the mash with some of these on top.
No pic, today, I’m afraid – that’s the problem with mash: it gets eaten before anyone has a chance at whipping out a camera!
Sometimes, only comfort food will do. Remember franks ‘n beans, that old bonfire favorite? It has a nice, vegetarian, easy-to-make version – provided that you have the right ingredients in hand.
This is something you may want to serve with some whole wheat bread, for dipping, or simply as a nice stew, with a spoon. It’s lots of fun to eat! True, textured “meat” stuff isn’t exactly the best thing for you, but it’s better than the original, and if you miss this homey favorite, this is probably the best way to go. Enriched with some vegetables, it can really be a nice family dinner.
10 tofu dogs (in the US , Smart dogs work best; in Israel, use Tivall) 1 can of white beans in tomato sauce (organic varieties contain as little additives as possible) 2 ripe tomatoes 2-3 red bell peppers 1-2 large white onions olive oil chili, black pepper
Chop up onions and fry them in olive oil in a large pot, until golden brown. Then, chop dogs into little rings and add them. After they get brown and a bit puffy, add chopped up tomatoes and peppers; sautee for about three minutes, then add contents of bean can, and spices. Sautee for another five minutes or so, or until it looks like what you remember from happy childhood days.
Seasoned readers of this blog have probably gathered that I don’t eat a lot of dessert.
I try to stick to fresh fruit for my sweets, and it works out fine for me, especially as I really love fresh fruit. This week’s fare has included juicy nectarines and cactus fruit (peel carefully! the thorns, which protect the cactus for predators, do exactly what they are supposed to – and it stings!). But there’s one big exception to this rule – and that’s when Chad makes Flan!
Flan, a lovely and creamy milk, egg and caramel custard, is a dessert we both grew up with as kids in Ecuador. There are commercial versions, which are not bad at all, and then there’s the home-made variety, which is fabulous.
The trick with flan is to mix the milk and eggs really well and leave some bubbles in the mixture, though not for too long, because too much foam ruins the creamy texture. It can also be seasoned with various treats – I’ll place some good recommendations below. The picture above is taken of an anime site, battleangel.info (of all places!), because ours was eaten too fast to be photographed. But it was equally delicious!
Deep baking dish (shallow dishes make for shallow flans).
For custard: 2 eggs + 2 yolks 2 cups of milk (for this dish, cow milk works better than goat milk) 1 tsp vanilla optional: 1-2 tsps sugar (if the topping is sweet, you can do without) optional seasonings: lemon peel; cardamon; cinnamon; nutmeg; or, for coffee flan, a teaspoon of good espresso powder
For caramel topping: 1 cup sugar 1/8 cup water
Heat up oven to about 180 degrees celsius. Heat up milk with spices and let cool. Meanwhile, caramelize the sugar: heat it with water, constantly mixing it, until it reaches syrup consistency. It doesn’t have to become solid, but it’s preferrable if it’s solid enough to be sticky. Whisk milk with eggs until there’s little bubbles everywhere, but don’t make too much fluff. Coat baking dish with caramel, then pour milk and egg mixture on top. Bake for about 30 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick or a knife goes in the flan and comes out clean and dry. Wait till it cools, then slowly and carefully use a knife to separate sides of flan from the dish. When you’ve done this to the best of your ability (patient people do better at this stage), invert the flan onto a plate. Whoa! There’s caramel on top! Have fun.