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Archive for the ‘Food Stories’ Category

Share your favorite cuisine.

The latest MoFo challenge has me flipping through cookbooks and pining for 35 thin, spiral bound Time Life International Cookbooks my mother received as a wedding gift. Because of the beautiful photographs, I judged these books by their covers: the white and green French fondant chicken, the sunshine seafood paella from Spain, the minimalist Japanese bento box. Occasionally, I peeked into the books for techniques and flavors to veganize a meat based recipe. Eventually, the books went the way of the other things that disappear with a big move.

Author, Barbara Kingsolver says America has “no apparent food culture” save Mc Donalds and Thanksgiving, but I think the embrace-every-food-culture-sheltered-on-our-shores sums us up. Recently Africa and Slovenia and Croatia come to mind as under-represented food flavor cuisines. Africa for the peanuty spicy, oven baked bread, all hands in one dish sharing generosity; and Slovenia and Croatia for the fresh from the garden, savory soups, decadent desserts and handmade pastas.

I am also thinking a lot about refugees. When I was in school, reading Cry the Beloved Country, Still Life with Rice and The Kite Runner, I learned about the violence between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes in Rwanda from a man who had witnessed the refugee camps first hand: the orphans and the widows, the suffering and diaspora. I remember his frustration that the horrors were mostly unknown to people in the United States. I remember feeling quite callous and uninformed about the whole thing myself. He made a Rwandan dinner and told me the story. A dish from his childhood, made vegan for me, flavored less spicy for my wimpy tongue. A delicious savory peanut sauce served with rice and vegetables. He talked with tears in his eyes about an orphan girl he could not forget.

Food transports us.

I pay more attention now to slips and wisps of refugee stories in the news. I am looking for the African peanut recipe and will post it here when I find it. As a nod to the continent, I flipped through Marcus Samuelsson’s Discovery of A Continent: foods, flavors and inspirations from Africa¬†omnivore cookbook. I listen to the stories of Croatia’s welcome to refugees and frown at their neighbors closed borders. I am made aware of the isolating refugee (Syria and Nigeria) experience again through Yermi Brenner’s writing for Aljazeera, “Refugees Cook Their Way Into Integration” and would like my food today to honor cuisines people clutch, in order to feel something of fled homes.

I revisited my saves and stashes from a summer spent in Croatia and Slovenia: dried crimini mushrooms, spicy pasta, dried beans. And a cookie press I bought in Slovenia with the delightful description: “for self-confident cookies.” Today, I will make some of these.

American cuisine embraces the cultures that find refuge on our shores, it is time to welcome some more.

Vegetable Samosas (Inspired by Marcus Samuelsson’s African recipe)

Puff pastry dough cut into 4 by 4 inch squares

Filling:

2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 small onion sliced

2 small red potatoes cubed

1 Tablespoon curry powder

2 cloved minced garlic

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/2 cup water

1 lime, juice of

Saute onions and garlic until translucent about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, curry, carrots, garlic, cook for 10 minutes. Add cauliflower, coconut milk and water, simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, mash with a fork for a chunky puree. Bake in a 425 degree F oven until the puff pastry is golden brown. Serve hot.

What is more welcoming than tea and cookies? Traditions such as sweet mint tea served with Qa’b el-ghazal can be comforting and welcoming for any visitor.

I am confident I can make these cookies my self.

I am confident I can make these cookies my self.

Qa’b el-ghazal (horns of the doe or cornes de gazelle) is a crescent shaped pastry with almond and sugar. I found recipes for these written in French including a “jaune d’oeuf” which is not vegan. And the 1000 and One website directions, including some fun directions like mix “le tout” [the all] with “les mains” [the hands]. The pictures are worth the price of admission- Samuelsson said the cookies were complex, he wasn’t kidding. He included a simpler Chinese style Almond Cookie recipe in his book. I am making a version of my own for the cookie press with a couple adaptations: pepper and chocolate style, too. Stay tuned. So here is what happened, I thought, what if I combined the spices and the almonds with the chocolate cookie dough. The result is a cookie combination inspired by Croatian Pepper Cookies, Chinese and African Almond Cookies and Chocolate biscotti.

Chocolate, Almond, Pepper Cookies

2 sticks or one cup of vegan butter

2 squares or 30 grams of unsweetened baking chocolate

1/2 cup date sugar or brown sugar if you prefer the cookies more sweet

1/2 cup roasted almonds, ground

1/2 cup of brown rice syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla, plus 1 teaspoon of almond extract, if a strong almond marzipan-like flavor is desired

2 2/3 cup of unbleached white flour

1-2 teaspoons each: ground cinnamon, cloves and black pepper

In a food processor, grind the almonds, add date sugar and half of the vegan butter. Melt the chocolate squares and the remainder of the butter, until the chocolate is just melted, the butter can still be semi soft. Add the chocolate butter mixture to the food processor, add extract/s, sweetener and spices. Add flour 1/3 cup at a time to process until the dough pulls from the sides of the processor and forms a ball. Remove the dough, press into a log shape, wrap with foil or plastic wrap and set in the freezer to chill for 20-30 minutes.

Remove the chilled dough, working quickly with clean hands, roll the dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Flatten slightly, then using plastic wrap between the cookie press and the dough, press the design into the cookies. Bake in a 320 degree F. oven fro 25-30 minutes until the smell makes your mouth water.

Slovenian cookie press with heart symbol.

Slovenian cookie press with heart symbol.

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What would Georgia O’Keefe eat if she were vegan?

Squash blossoms fresh from the garden, in morning sun.

Squash blossoms fresh from the garden, competing with the morning sun.

I just picked some beautiful squash blossoms from my yard today. I think stuffed squash blossoms would be the perfect thing for the artist who painted the hearts of flowers. I will also be including other edible flowers and what to do with them today. After I prep the blossoms.

The veggie box had turnips with the tops today so I am amending my stuffed blossoms (easy to stuff with daiya cheese and rice with herbs) to sauteed turnip greens with squash blossoms and soy mozzarella cheese. The turnips reminded me of the weathered cow skull bones O’Keefe painted, by preparing their lively locks I let the vegetables live on a little longer in my fridge.

Turnip tops and squash blossoms.

Turnip tops and squash blossoms.

A note about edible flowers- do not use flowers from a florist, these tend to have high concentrations of pesticides.

Other edible flowers include:

Blue borage flowers- these tiny mildly cucumber flavored star shaped blossoms freeze wonderfully in ice cubes or spark up a salad.

Red, orange and yellow nasturtiums add spice to salads (I have used both whole flowers and just petals, the leaves are edible too but have quite a kick).

Violet and white violets add beauty to salads and can also be candied without egg white, for a Victorian era treat.

Pink and white fuzzy guava petals have a light sweetness, I have never been able to do more with them than eat them straight from the plant.

Pink and lavender colored chive blossoms impart a lovely onion-like flavor to salads.

Sunflower, chamomile, pansy and rose petals can add bright yellows, purples, reds, and oranges to salads.

Chamomile, dried hibiscus flowers and rose hips also make wonderful tea.

Rosemary has tiny blue flowers which can also be used to impart a more subtle flavor or for garnish on a rosemary inspired dish.

O'Keefe's sly smile with southwestern clouds as captured by Ansel Adams.

O’Keefe’s sly smile with southwestern clouds as captured by Ansel Adams.

Have a colorful day.

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Equinox eats.

My brother’s birthday cake, because today is his birthday and he is a libra on the cusp and because I love him.

For my brother, Leif.

For my brother, Leif.

Surprise Cake

3 cups Rice Crispies

1 cup vegan marshmallows

1/2 cup vegan butter

1/2 cup organic crunchy peanut butter

16 ounces of vegan chocolate frosting

Melt the butter and marshmallows and peanut butter in a deep soup pot. Add the Rice Crispies folding them in until they are coated with the mixture. Press the “dough” into a round or square cake pan with a wooden spoon or plastic wrap under your hand. Cool until firm. Frost and surprise your guests with a solid cake that can be held in one hand.

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Make a dish using all seasonal produce.

This seems too easy. I have a weekly CSA veggie box that contains seasonal produce. Last night we made vegan quesadillas, with seared sweet potatoes, organic carrots, heirloom tomatoes and strawberries.

Vegan quesadilla, heirloom tomatoes, strawberries and carrots.

Vegan quesadilla, heirloom tomatoes, strawberries and carrots.

I also made roasted carrot and onion soup.

Roasted multicolored carrot soup.

Roasted multicolored carrot soup.

Roasted Carrot and Onion Soup

3-4 cups diced carrots (about 10 medium sized carrots)

2-3 cups diced onions (I had one very large onion)

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil for baking

1-2 cups of filtered water, or stock (if using stock, omit bouillon)

1 vegan bouillon cube

smoked paprika and chives or minced parsley for garnish

Slow roast diced fresh organic carrots and onions in a 350 degree F oven on a large baking sheet. I used a combination of yellow and orange carrots from my CSA box. When the carrots and onions have softened and started to turn golden brown, remove from the oven, combine with 1-2 cups of filtered water, and bouillon in a high powered blender. Puree for 1-3 minutes until smooth. Reheat on a low simmer for 10-20 minutes. Serve with a drizzle of oil, a dash of smoked paprika and chives or minced parsley.

I also have this beet. I will make something for an army with that.

This from my CSA box. I think they grew a bowling ball.

This from my CSA box. I think they grew a bowling ball.

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Lunch on the go.

I ran out of the house to go surfing this morning with an apple, a cinnamon roll with vegan cream cheese, a banana and some water. That was as inspiring as I could get, since there was a whale circling off the coast.

Here are some other snacks I keep within reach, so that when I have to dash my blood sugar doesn’t drop dramatically:

  • fruits that are portable like apples, bananas, oranges
  • cut up veggies like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower
  • peanut butter or hummus (sometimes these are sold in small packets or they fit perfect in a tiny Tupperware)
  • crackers such as Stoned Wheat Crackers, Rice Crackers, Woven Wheat Crackers
  • water in a reusable bottle, also good for juice or nut milks
  • nuts a handful of almonds, peanuts, cashews
  • fruit leather or dried fruits such as apricots, cherries, apples, persimmons
Dried persimmon

Dried persimmon

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Childhood favorite. The German Pancake or Dutch Baby.

Loaded with eggs, I thought to myself, how the heck do I make this vegan? Here is the original egg and dairy filled recipe by Food Wishes: Dutch Baby.

I searched for someone who had made this childhood favorite vegan: many look quite tasty though they are not quite it, I included the links because I appreciate their efforts. The Vegan Hausfrau for German Apple Pancakes. The Vegan Fling has a recipe for Pancake Puffs that sounded close, but not quite. The Veggie Nook has a German Chocolate Pancake that is more like vegan German Chocolate Cake. Also, not it. Go Dairy Free has a recipe that is gluten-free for Dutch Baby Love.

I am still looking and experimenting, to recreate this childhood favorite:

The 425 degree F oven, the black cast iron pan, the batter sizzling in oil, my little brother and I with our faces pressed to the oven window watching it bubble and lurch like something out of Yellowstone National Park. Then the crisp golden bubbles, pulled from the oven for a squeeze and sizzle of lemon juice and then dusted with powdered sugar before we devoured the love my mother made for us.

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The hill town of Motovun in Croatia.

Dobar dan, hello and welcome to the Istrian penninsula of Hrvatska (Croatia) where they make a traditional hand rolled pasta called, pljukanci. Often served with green beans and ham, this version uses truffle salt, crimini mushrooms and green beans. If you want the flavor of salty ham, try some vegan bacon.

This summer, I traveled to both Croatia and Slovenia and enjoyed amazing vegan food! In Istria, I loved the hand rolled pasta with shaved truffles. Today, I attempt to recreate the dish.

Slovenian salt

Slovenian finishing salt

Pljukanci

1 1/2 cups of organic bread flour (regular white flour will also work, the bread flour has a higher gluten and protein content)

1/2 cup of organic whole wheat flour

1 cup hot water

2 Tablespoons high quality extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon truffle salt (or other flavored salt)

Mix the flours and salt together, make a well in the flour on a large cutting board surface. Add the olive oil to the well and mix together with fingers by pinching. Gradually add the hot water to the well, continuing to add flour and water with fingers. You may not need all the water, you want the flour to be moist enough to kneed gently without falling apart or sticking to the cutting board. Kneed for 3-5 minutes until the dough is well combined and takes on a silky feel and texture.

Pulling small pieces off the dough ball, roll these into 1-2 inch noodles with tapered ends. They will look very similar to mini green beans. Set the rolled noodles on a lightly floured cookie sheet, sprinkle with flour to prevent them from sticking together, let rest for about an hour.

handmade pasta

Pljukanci, hand rolled pasta, an Istrian peninsula specialty.

I had plenty of noodles for two and a ball of dough left over, so I decided to make some ravioli pockets by rolling out the dough and cutting it into about 1 inch squares. I filled each with a 1/4 teaspoon of the truffles from Croatia and moistened the edges with water. The ravioli is done when it floats to the top of the boiling water.

The noodles will cook in boiling water in about 5-10 minutes. These noodles will be served with the tartufata I brought back from Motovun, a hill town in Croatia. Another option is to serve with lightly steamed green beans, non-dairy butter and vegan bacon slices. Drizzle with truffle flavored oil.

Hvala! Thanks and enjoy this Istarski specijaliteti: pljukanci!

delicious truffle mushroom paste from Croatia.

Delicious truffle mushroom paste from Croatia.

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