Archive for the ‘Vegan’ Category

This week’s baking assignment from Tuesdays with Dorrie was naan – that lovely leavened bread that’s best used to sop up a creamy chicken korma from the local Indian restaurant. As I was reading through the recipe for the first time, I realized it’s very similar to the pizza dough we make all the time for our caterings and cooking parties. (Check out the naan recipe at this week’s host blogs: Always Add More Butter and Of Cabbage & King Cakes.) They both have flour, yeast and water..how different could they be? Well, it turns out there are a couple of key differences in cooking technique that resulted in a clear verdict: we prefer the pizza dough. Here’s how it went down in the kitchen:

The naan dough was easy enough to make. We did the overnight-rise-in-the-fridge option and that resulted in a supple dough. Our toppings were some caraway seeds and sliced scallion. The recipe suggested having a large quarry tile or pizza stone in the oven — we didn’t have either so we used the second option, the back of a baking sheet, as a cooking surface. Here’s where we ran into trouble. Even at 500 degrees, the oven just wasn’t hot enough to cook the naan quickly and encourage any browning. And since there was no oil on or in the dough, the end result, while tasty, was a very pale dough without the color and texture we expected from naan. In the end we were left sheepishly muttering that the Trader Joe’s frozen naan was so much better…why even go through this effort (gasp!). But it’s no wonder! Traditional naan is made in a firey-hot tandoori oven and the dough it slapped against the side of the oven wall, creating a blackened, blistered bread that is crunchy in some parts and soft in others and full of flavor. So this naan, while somewhat pleasant and chewy, left a lot to be desired.

Then we made our favorite pizza dough just to see what the difference in flavor and texture would be in a side-by-side tasting (and because we are always looking for an excuse to make pizza). The pizza won hands-down. First, there’s the addition of olive oil in the dough and on the outside of the dough — that helps with the texture and taste. The dough takes on some of that grassy olive oil flavor throughout. And when it’s baked in the same 500 degree oven it gets browned thanks to the olive oil. Of course, once we had pizza dough made, we couldn’t help but start topping it with all kinds of goodies….mozzarella, tomatoes, ricotta, figs….

In the end, despite our distractions with pizza toppings, we decided that we preferred the taste and texture of the pizza dough. So the next time we want some naan to eat alongside an Indian-inspired meal, we’ll use this dough recipe, brush it with some olive oil, sprinkle with the caraway seeds and a bit of onion and bake until crispy. Although chances are pretty good we’ll get distracted with toppings again……

Basic Pizza Dough

makes about 1 1/2 pounds (NOTE: This dough is easily doubled or tripled and can be used to make pizzas OR pressed into a baking sheet, topped with caramelized onions and baked up as the most delicious focaccia bread.)

3 tsp dry yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water (just warm to the touch)

2 tbl honey

5 1/4 cups flour

1 1/2 tbl salt

3 tbl olive oil

Combine the yeast, water and honey in the bowl of a standing mixer. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the flour, salt and oil and stir. Beat with a dough-hook attachment for 10 minutes on medium, adding a bit more flour as needed, until elastic and smooth and not sticking to the sides of the bowl.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a clean towel and let sit in a warm spot for 1 hour to rise (it will at least double in size).

Now the dough is ready to use. If making pizza, cut the dough in half or thirds and press gently into a circle/oblong shape — then place on a baking sheet or onto a pizza peel. Top with your favorite toppings and slide into a 500 degree oven to bake for 10-12 minutes. If making focaccia bread, dump the dough onto an oiled 11×17-inch baking sheet and press to fill the pan. Let rise for another 45 minutes (it will fill out the pan as it rises). Top with caramelized onions (or your favorite toppings) and bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes or until golden.

OR, wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 2 days or freeze for up to a month. Be sure to let come to room temperature for 1-2 hours before using.



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I’m always so excited to see the first asparagus of the season. It usually begins with just a few bundles on the tables of our farmer’s market…the tentative beginnings of the crop. Then, within a couple weeks, there are huge piles of asparagus signaling Spring is really here. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for Spring….ready for some sunshine, ready for all my favorite green veggies (artichokes, peas and spring onions) and ready to eat asparagus like crazy for the next few months until it goes out of season.

I recently learned more about the difference between the large, thick stalks of asparagus and the thin, pencil variety. I always thought the thin was more tender and desirable. Turns out the large, thick asparagus are actually the first shoot of the plant and, therefore, more tender and flavorful. But you have to be careful to trim the bottom of those big stalks (that part is full of fibers and can be tough) and peel the outer green layer. Then you’re left with the most flavorful, tender asparagus to work with. I like the big ones simply steamed and served with a drizzle of good olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice and a crunch of Maldon salt — simple and delicious.

When I have the smaller stalks, my favorite thing to do is toss them in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and throw them on the grill. I love the charred black bits against the bright green and all that smokey flavor. If I have more time, I’ll make my favorite Roasted Red Pepper Sauce to go over the top….full of more smokey flavors and a nice acidic tang from Sherry vinegar. We also use this sauce in our catered events to serve over roasted potatoes or salmon….it’s also delicious sopped up with some good bread! Enjoy!


Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

makes 2 cups

2 red bell peppers

1 clove garlic

1/2 tsp red chili flakes

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 tbl Sherry vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Place the peppers over a gas flame and cook, turning as needed, until all the skin is blackened. Remove and place in a bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Let cook for 10 minutes. Use paper towels to rub off the black skin and discard. Cut open the pepper and discard the stem and seeds. Pat the pepper dry and place into a blender. Add the garlic, chili, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. Blend until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


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It’s that time of year when eating well is on everyone’s mind. For many that means cutting things out of our diets: calories, fat, sugar, carbs. I not only find all of that deprivation depressing, but also ultimately leading to disappointment. Certainly cutting back on excessive calories and fat makes sense after a holiday season that is packed with both and that can be a great way to jump-start the year. But in the interest of sticking to your resolutions past February, I like to focus on what I should be eating MORE of, not less of. This means focusing on nutritionally dense food. So often we look at food as the bad guy, the temptation, the thing that makes us lose our willpower and self-respect at the same time. Yikes! That’s a lot of power to give to a fried potato. What about looking at food as a way of getting all the nutrition we need to be healthy and happy? Looking at various food items not only in terms of taste, but also in terms of all the good stuff they hold is a great step toward letting food back into your life as a friend, not an enemy.

In practical terms, this means looking at a scoop of peanut butter not only as a delicious snack but also as brain-food that’s full of protein. An orange is not only sweet and full of flavor but also supplies a decent portion of your daily dose of vitamin C. With this in mind, I’ve put together a salad that is chock full of protein, vitamins and nutrients…AND it tastes amazing! If you’re someone who thinks salads are boring, this is the salad for you! It’s tangy, spicy, crunchy and satisfying. It’s also full of protein and fiber from the black beans and peanuts, vitamin C from the bell pepper, folate from the cabbage, lycopene from the tomatoes – it’s a super-food power punch. Best of all, it’s easy to make and actually gets better as it sits in the fridge overnight. It will last up to 4-5 days in the fridge, but it never seems to last that long in my house. Maybe this salad will even make you forget about the French fry you “can’t” have.

We’ll be making a lot of this salad over the next few months as part of our cooking demonstrations with Vitality City. We’re also kicking off the new year with a series of Healthy Living Cooking Classes with Health Coach Eugenie Mason on topics that range from detoxing to gluten-free comfort foods to healthy food your kids will love.

Peanut & Black Bean Salad with Spicy Cilantro-Lime Dressing

serves 6 as a side dish

2 15-oz cans black beans, rinsed very well and drained

1/2 cup unsalted, roasted peanuts

2 cups halved baby tomatoes

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and finely diced

3 cups finely shredded cabbage

1 jalapeno

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

In a large bowl, toss together the beans, peanuts, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion and cabbage.

Cut the jalapeno in half and scrape out the seeds (OR leave them in if you like it spicy!). Cut the jalapeno into small pieces and place into a blender. Add the cilantro, lime juice, orange juice, a pinch of salt and the olive oil. Blend until smooth. Toss the salad with the dressing. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed.

Enjoy immediately OR refrigerate for up to 5 days (it gets better as it sits!).

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We were recently asked to make latkes for a catered event and we were thrilled!  We made over 160 latkes for this all-appetizer party for 50 people, along with 5 other menu items and the latkes were the first thing to go — they were a smash hit. And no wonder — who doesn’t love a crispy pile of potatoes after all? Latkes are one of those foods that, for many, represent family tradition and holiday celebration — and that means that for every family there is a grandmother-approved way of making them and eating them. For some it’s extra crispy, for some it’s soft in the middle, for some it’s smoked salmon, for some it’s applesauce. While we don’t want to step on grandma’s toes, we decided it would be fun to mix it up and offer a variety of toppings for this particular party. So we did latkes with creamy horseradish sauce, watercress sauce and smoked salmon, creme fraiche and caviar, apple-thyme compote and pomegranate-orange relish. The smoked salmon one went first, but I like the apple-thyme compote the best. At the risk of ruffling the feathers of tradition, here are our tips for making the perfect latke, along with a recipe for the watercress sauce that was such a hit. We did one batch with just potatoes and onions and one with some added carrot. In the end, they all tasted the same and you couldn’t really see the orange of the carrot. I’ve done a version with all butternut squash before that were pretty and delicious — a nice alternative to the original.

1. SHRED WITH SPEED – While there’s nothing wrong with using a traditional box grater, there is nothing like hand grating 10 pounds of potatoes to make you never want to cook again. And we are against anything that makes cooking harder than it needs to be. So may we suggest pulling out those grating disks that came with your Cuisinart (or other food processor) that are on a bottom shelf somewhere collecting dust. This is their time to shine. Remove the standard blade from your food processor and replace with the largest grating blade and the whole grating part of this recipe will take under 5 minutes.

2. MOISTURE IS THE ENEMY – Whenever the goal is making something golden brown, moisture is not your friend. This poses a problem when working with vegetables that have a lot of natural water in them, like potatoes. The key to the perfect latke is drying your potatoes before you continue with the recipe. To do this, we like to use a clean, dust-free kitchen towel. Simply dump the freshly grated potatoes in the towel, bundle together and squeeze over the sink. You’ll be surprised to see about a cup of liquid come out. Do this in batches until all of the potatoes are dry before mixing in the other ingredients.

3. DON’T SKIMP ON THE OIL – Sorry, folks, but this is not a low-fat recipe. It’s fried. That’s what makes it delicious. So don’t try to get away with a few squirts from an olive oil spray bottle. You’ll need a solid 1/4-inch of oil on the bottom of the pan to get these to golden perfection.

4. BE CAREFUL. THIS IS HOT OIL WE’RE TALKING ABOUT – May seem obvious but it just takes one burn from a splatter of hot oil to ruin your day. Our advice is to use tongs to gently turn over the latkes – they allow you much more control than a spatula.

4. SEASON TWICE – If there was one single tip we could give you that could turn your home-cooked food from just OK to fantastic, it’s to learn to season correctly. This means using salt and pepper at multiple times during a recipe. For this one, you’ll add salt into the mix AND sprinkle some salt and pepper on the latkes when they come out of the pan. This ensures the flavors are all balanced. There’s nothing worse than a bland latke.


makes about 2 dozen

4 large russet potatoes, peeled

1 onion, peeled

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1 tablespoon salt

vegetable oil for cooking

Grate the potatoes and onions using the largest grating blade in your food processor. Use a clean kitchen towel to squeeze the vegetables dry in batches. Dump all of the dry veggies into a large bowl and add the flour, eggs and salt. Use your hands to mix together until well combined.

Add about 1/4-inch of vegetable oil to a large skillet and place over medium-high heat. To see if the oil is hot enough, drop a couple strands of potato into the oil – if it sizzles immediately, you’re ready to go.

Drop about 2 tablespoons of the mixture at a time into the oil creating little piles (don’t spread the piles too thin or they will fall apart when you try to turn them). Once golden on the first side (about 3 minutes), use tongs to gently turn over and cook until golden on the other side.

Remove and place on a paper-towel-lined baking sheet and immediately sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with your favorite topping.

NOTE: Latkes do not hold well overnight. If you want to make them before serving, your best bet is to make them same day and let them sit at room temperature. Before serving, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven and cook for 5 minutes until sizzling hot. If you have extra cooked latkes, they freeze nicely. Place them on a baking sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, combine them in a Ziploc bag and keep in the freezer for up to a couple months. To reheat, place directly from freezer on a baking sheet in a 375 degree oven and cook for about 15 minutes or until sizzling hot.


makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cup watercress leaves

1 clove garlic

1/4 cup fresh dill

zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 cup sour cream

1/3 cup mayonnaise

salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve latkes with a dollop of this sauce and a small piece of smoked salmon.

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Do you ever get obsessed with a dish you’ve had at a restaurant? Happens to me all the time! The latest dish of my affection is the humble chipotle sauce that MChaya serves with their breakfast burritos (their burritos are delicious on their own — but that’s another post). This “salsa” is actually a smooth red-orange sauce that’s smokey and heavy with that iconic chipotle flavor balanced with a bit of vegetable subtle sweetness and the tang of fresh tomatoes. Saying I love this sauce is an understatement. It is, to me, what ketchup or sirracha is for many people — that ubiquitous condiment that I can eat on absolutely everything.

But how many days a week can I legitimately go to MChaya and ask for extra sauce to squirrel away at home? I decided it was high time I figure out how to re-create this sauce on my own. Good news — it was a success!




Here’s what I discovered about this sauce:

It’s success depends on sweet tomatoes (perfect this time of year), a few carrots for depth and texture (that was the secret ingredient I missed in the first batch), a light hand with the chipotle and some key spices. Most importantly of all, this is a salsa that is served cold but needs to cook for a while for all of the flavors to meld together first. The recipe below makes a generous 4 cups — probably more than you need on hand unless you’re a salsa junkie like me. So you can freeze half (then re-blend after defrosting to fix any separation issues OR you can simply cut the recipe in half).

Aside from being tucked inside a breakfast burrito or on a crispy tortilla chip, this sauce is particularly good on grilled pork chops, in huevos rancheros or on fish tacos. I think this needs to be added to our new Latin Cooking Party menu.

Chipotle Tomato Salsa

makes 4 cups

olive oil

1 small white onion, roughly chopped

4 vine-ripened tomatoes, halved and seeded then roughly chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

1 glove garlic, minced

2 chipotle peppers (from the can, with a little of the adobo sauce from the can, too)

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

salt and pepper

2 tbl maple syrup, plus more to taste

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and drizzle in a little olive oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are soft. Add the tomatoes, carrots, garlic, chipotle, cumin, paprika and water to barely cover the veggies. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, adding a splash more water as needed if it cooks out too quickly. Cook until veggies are VERY soft and the water is reduced by half.

Carefully blend the mixture (in batches as needed — only fill your blender half way up with the mixture!). Stir in salt and pepper to taste (NOTE: It will need more salt that you think!). Add the maple syrup and taste. Balance the heat by adding a little more maple syrup if desired.

Let cool completely and serve as a cold salsa. Will stay good in your refrigerator for up to 10 days.

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We love avocados! But picking the perfect one can be tricky. Here are our tips on choosing the perfect avocado and what to do with these yummy Summer treats.

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The chill in the air conjures up images of creamy pot-pies, hearty braised meats and oozing mac-and-cheese. The devil on my shoulder told me to start making a bechamel sauce in preparation for the cheesiest mac-n-cheese ever. The angel on my other shoulder gasped in horror and suggested a vegetable stew in stead. In the end, the angel won mostly because I realized I didn’t have any cheese in the house. It all started with cauliflower and a can of coconut milk. Then I decided to head in a meat-free direction partly to satisfy my effort to eat vegetarian a few times a week and partly because I didn’t want to go to the store. Then I remembered that a few days earlier I had given my spice cabinet a yearly cleaning and made a little spice mixture with the bottom dregs of a few savory spices. From all of these elements some kind of Indian-influenced one-pot curry dish started to take form. After digging up some cashews from the freezer, I was on my way. Twenty-five minutes later I was sitting down to dinner. It was comforting, creamy and delicious……everything I needed.






Cauliflower Coconut-Cashew Curry

serves about 4

1 cup cashew pieces

1 tbl coconut oil (olive oil is also fine!)

1 cup finely diced onion

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1-inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

4 roma tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 tsp tumeric

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp corriander

1/2 tsp cayenne

1 tsp salt

1 15 oz can coconut milk

1 cup frozen peas

Heat a small soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the cashews and stir until toasted. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add the oil and the onions, garlic, ginger and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until tender.

Add the cauliflower, tomatoes, all the spices and the salt. Toss to coat. Add the coconut milk and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes until mixture has thickened slightly and cauliflower is soft.

Remove from heat, stir in cashews and peas.

Serve with some store-bought naan or rice.


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