Risotto with Trumpet Mushrooms and Vegetables

I had just finished eating leftover mejedderah when Chad called me to announce we were going to have four guests for dinner–all four of them fierce martial artists just out of a four-day tournament! Easy peasy – a nice risotto, served with some vegetables and dip and gazpacho, did the trick.

For the rice I used whole-grain arborio, which is not very easy to find on the shelves but you can order it here. It has the glutinous quality of its white cousin with more nutritional goodness. I also had trumpet mushrooms, which slice beautifully into rounds, some greens, a heap of caramelized onions, and lots of stock.

1-2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 cup onions, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced trumpet mushrooms
2 cups greens (kale, collards, chard), chopped into small bites
2 cups brown arborio rice
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp fresh rosemary
2 tbsp fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Heat up olive oil in a large pan. Add the onions and toss about until caramelized (this could take you a good ten minutes.) Add the mushrooms, greens, and rice, and toss for a few more minutes. Then add 1 cup of stock, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook until almost absorbed. Then, add another cup of stock, plus the yeast and half the herbs. Repeat the process by which you let simmer until almost absorbed and then add another cup until all stock has been added. When all stock is absorbed and the rice is fully cooked, place in serving bowls and sprinkle the remaining half of the herbs. Enjoy!

Make Thine Own Tortillas!

I’m back from two weeks of travel, the first of which was spent in beautiful Mexico City. What a treat! Art everywhere, delightful and interesting people, lots to see, and lots to eat! It’s extremely easy to eat vegan in Mexico City. There are several vegan businesses: Gatorta, a vegan taco and torta stand at the corner of Puebla and Insurgentes, and Viko, a vegan taqueria-susheria in the Chapultepec underpass serving delicious soy horchata. I also had excellent vegan dishes with friends at Paramo on Avenida Yucatan – they made us ceviche from hearts of palm, tacos with roasted mushrooms, and a beautiful lentil salad.

But everywhere you go, even if the menu appears meat-heavy, just ask them for vegetables and they’ll prepare them for you. I had tacos with rajas (roasted poblano pepper strips), nopales (cooked cactus fruit) and champiniones (cooked mushrooms), with heaping bowls of frijoles de olla (cooked beans served in their fragrant pot liquor.) The cheese-and-cream-on-tacos thing is, thankfully, not a feature of authentic Mexican cuisine, at least where I went, so everything was vegan and delicious.

My main takeaway from all this is that homemade tortillas are way better than purchased ones. So, when I bought groceries this morning at Casa Lucaz I picked up a fresh bag of masa. I rolled a little ball, about an inch and a half in diameter, and placed it in my new cast iron tortilla press, between two layers of parchment paper. It turned out a perfect disc, and I then popped it on a hot cast-iron pan for about a minute on one side, then 30 seconds on the other. It came out perfect and terrific – fluffy, flexible, full of corn flavor – and was a great base for a tofu and greens taco.

Making my own tortillas is absolutely worthwhile from the flavor perspective and also quick and easy, so I’m never looking back – it’s all about the press and the pan from now on. I’m planning a nice Mexican mini-feast this evening using my new Talavera dishes – check out the pictures. In the blue dish: two pico-de-gallo salads (we like these!), some fresh spinach, guacamole, and tomatillo hot sauce. In the red dish: baked winter squash, Rancho Gordo beans, sauteed mushrooms with onion and a drop of whiskey, and sauteed kale in orange juice. Not all of these are traditional, of course–and you’ll note that the rajas and nopales are missing–but they will be so tasty with the fresh tortillas!

Buddha Bowls

Are buddha bowls all the rage now or have they gone out of fashion? I have no idea, but I do see articles about them all over the place. The nice thing about them is that they constitute a varied, colorful, tasty lunch, made of ingredients that are easy to eat as they are or cook quickly and simply. Moreover, if you keep a bunch of toppings in the fridge, it’s easy to mix things up during the week and make variations on the theme.

In the photo you see our toppings from this afternoon: in the left plate, a simple tomato-basil salad, chopped cucumbers and radishes, sliced avocado, and two kinds of pickles–beets and root kimchi. In the right plate, simply baked potatoes and sweet potatoes (which I then cubed and stored in the fridge), zucchini slices and snap peas (which I lightly stir-fried on a dry pan with some garlic powder until the zucchini slices became pleasantly charred) and a bunch of chard that I chopped up and cooked up for five minutes with juice from one lemon.

Add to that some cooked quinoa and some tofu bacon or baked chickpeas and you’re in business. It occurs to me that this is an excellent hosting dish, too–just hand people bowls (maybe with the quinoa already layered at the bottom) and ask them to help themselves to whatever toppings they choose.

Quick Buckwheat and Adzuki Bean Stir-Fry

Russia has been in the news lately, and I had buckwheat at home, so I put together a quick and satisfying dinner made of some cooked and sprouted items I had at home.

Adzuki beans are delicious when cooked, but they are also very easy to sprout: just place them in a jar with water for 24 hours, and then change the water every few hours until they develop little tails and are soft enough to eat. You can enjoy the sprouts raw or, as in this recipe, quickly stir-fry them.

1 cup cooked buckwheat
1/2 cup mung beans, sprouted
1/2 cup baked butternut squash
about 2 tbsp red onions, finely chopped
1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat up olive oil in a pan. Add onions and swirl around some. Throw in squash, beans, and buckwheat, and cook for about 5 minutes or until hot and combined. Add salt and pepper and serve hot.

Comfort Quinoa

My favorite meal when sick or upset used to be a simple bowl of rice noodles with some salt and pepper. But I’ve come to say a gentle farewell to this dish for two reasons: first, I’m realizing more and more that seeking comfort through food is masking r eal needs and emotions that require deeper solutions, in lieu of the sugar rush band-aid. And second, there are more satisfying things to eat. One of them is a new dish I made yesterday, which hits the right tomatoey-cheesy notes without being overly starchy. It’s very easy to make if you have leftover tomato sauce in the fridge.

1 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 large leek, sliced into rings, both green and white parts
1 cup mushrooms (I used maiitake), cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a pot, mix a bit, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for approximately 20 mins or until quinoa is fully cooked. Enjoy!

Tzili Rice

I’ve just finished four weeks of a delightful correspondence with the one and only Tzili Paz-Wolk, who specializes in issues of emotional eating and our relationship with food. It was a helpful, instructive, and–no less important–compassionate experience, which led me to think about the role food plays in my life and how to modify it in a way that supports a healthy weight and a calm workday.

In honor of Tzili, I made a recipe that she mentioned she’d made at home: delectable rice with mushrooms and vegetables. Alas, I didn’t have black rice, so I substituted it with short-grain brown rice, and I also added kale and chard to mine in lieu of spinach. I don’t know if it came out similar to hers, but it was certainly delicious. I’m going to call it Tzili Rice! Here goes:

3 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp chopped green onions
3 cups kale and chard leaves and stems, chopped
1/2 cup homemade tomato sauce
3 bell peppers (I used one green and two red)
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup brown rice
3 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped dill

Combine the vegetables and rice in your Instant Pot and add 1 1/4 cup water. If you’re cooking this on the stovetop, add 2-2.5 cups water. Cook until rice is tender (25 mins on high pressure in the Instant Pot.) Sprinkle with the herbs after cooking and before serving.

Arroz Verde

Chad’s martial arts sensei, Miyako Tanaka, was a very special and distinctive woman. Her proficiency in Naginata, a Japanese spear art originally practiced by women, brought her to the United States, and here she established an excellent dojo and an entire generations of students who adored and respected her. She was a fierce woman, and at the same time, a kind one, with an abiding love for Japanese tradition, a quiet sense of humor, and innate nobility.

We lost Tanaka Sensei a few years ago and we miss her very much. One of the many ways in which we remember her is by cooking Sukoyaka Genmai, which is a short-grain, lightly milled brown rice she favored. She is the one who told us about it, saying it was “the very best brown rice,” and, indeed, it is delicious! I like eating it simply steamed in water, but today I made a special version that enriches it with fiber and nutrients from lovely greens. This is a slightly healthier version of the classic Mexican arroz verde, and you can serve it with a bean or lentil dish or with tortillas.

2 cups kale, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper
2 garlic cloves
2 cups short-grain brown rice
water or vegetable broth (2.5 cups if cooking in a pressure cooker, 4 cups for stovetop cooking)
juice from 2 lemons
salt to taste

Place the kale, parsley, cilantro, jalapeño, and garlic in a food processor and process until very finely chopped.
Transfer the green mixture to a pot or a pressure cooker, add rice and water, mix well, and cook rice until tender.
Fluff rice with fork, add lemon juice and salt and fluff again.

My Inaugural Paella

After being served this wonderful paella a couple of weeks ago, I could not wait to start experimenting with my own. Despite the wonderfulness of having an enormous pan for guests, I figured we’d get more mileage out of a smaller pan, and fortunately La Paella has pans of any size you can think of. And they deliver!

The paella I made is very similar to the one my friend served me, except for a few changes: I halved the recipe because of the differently-sized pan and added a half-cup of chickpeas. I used pre-soaked, short-grain brown rice to improve nutrition (the taste was not compromised in the least). Since I had no artichokes, I topped it with lightly steamed baby courgettes (aren’t they pretty?). And, I also sauteed king oyster mushrooms, which have the look and texture of calamari. It was stunningly delicious and I look forward to inventing more variations.

In other news, I happened upon an estate sale in my neighborhood. Beyond the joys of all the neighbors rummaging through furniture and appliances and chatting excitedly, I was chuffed to find ten beautiful porcelain teacups with botanicals with matching saucers–not a set, each different, but incredibly cute. The whole lot, gold leaf and roses and pansies and all, cost me $20. I look forward to hosting a mad hatter party with vegan pastries soon!

Kalenta

It’s polenta. With kale. And pesto. And a bit of vegan butter and salt. What’s not to like?

1 bundle dino kale
1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
2 cups water
2 tbsp pesto
1-2 tsp vegan butter
salt to taste

Start by placing all the kale in the food processor and process fairly thoroughly.

Then, read this. Apparently, a lot of the polenta punctiliousness out there is completely unnecessary. No need for boiling water, constant stirring, and the like.

Place two cups of water in a wok over medium heat. Gradually whisk in polenta and processed kale. Whisk until the polenta begins to thicken, then reduce the heat to very low. Add pesto and stir every few minutes, until polenta thickens more and separates from the sides of the wok. That means it’s nearly done, and it’s time to stir in some vegan butter (I’m using this wonderful new thing, but Earth Balance would work just fine) and sprinkle a bit of salt. When the polenta reaches the desired consistency, you’re done!

If you want the polenta to harden so it can be beautifully sliced, you can put it in a serving dish (like the one I have above) and set it aside for a bit, or put it in the oven with the light on. After about 10-15 minutes you can slice beautiful polenta triangles or rectangles. We ate this with a nice green salad and some simply cooked pinto beans.

Orzo with Vegetables

When I was a kid, one of my favorite comfort foods was “ptitim”, otherwise known as orzo or by the misleading name “Israeli couscous”. This short and springy wheat pasta is unrelated to the original semolina couscous, and actually has an interesting recession-era history. In the 1950s, during the age of austerity in Israel, Prime Minister David Ben Guryon ordered the Osem factory to come up with a cheap alternative to rice. Ptitim came to be known as “Ben Guryon rice.” They are now manufactured in various shapes.

Here, sometimes people cook them like pasta–boiling in a lot of water, then draining–but that’s not the best method, I think. This basic recipe is pretty easy, but today I dressed it up with lots of wonderful vegetables straight out of our CSA box. Here’s what I made:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
3 carrots (I used one purple, one orange, and one pale yellow)
1 summer squash
5 mushrooms
1 cup whole grain orzo
1 cup boiling water
1 tbsp blackened rub
1 handful fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in a small pot (and keep the lid nearby). Thinly chop carrots, onion, squash, and slice mushrooms. Saute onions until translucent, then add other vegetables and orzo. Cook in olive oil for about 2-3 minutes, or until the orzo begins to be a bit golden. Then, add the water and the blackened rub, lower the heat and cover the pot. Cook for about 10-15 minutes or until all water is absorbed; if water is absorbed and orzo is still a bit too al-dente-ish for you, add more water and cook a few more minutes. When all water is absorbed, fluff up with a fork, then put the lid back on for a couple of minutes. Serve with fresh parsley sprinkled on top.