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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 CountryStill 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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The vegan month of food is coming to the Conscious Cooking blog once again in September, I will be blogging daily. Here is a rough draft of what I will be posting:

Vegan MoFo2015 Challenges

September 1 Rise and Shine! It’s MoFo time! Tell us about your breakfast. It was going to be Scrambled Soy Chorizo and Tofu with tortillas and Nopales Salsa, but this morning I had no Soy Chorizo. So, instead, I shot video for my vegan version of eggs Benedict, called The Benedict Cumberbatch. I will upload it as soon as I figure out how to edit the footage. Grin.

September 2 Recreate a meal from your childhood. The Pink Soup

September 3 Quick, easy and delicious. Garbanzo Soup or Rosemary Kabocha Pasta

September 4 Tell us about a weird food combo that you love. Popcorn Toppings- I like strange things atop my popcorn. You might too. Baked Grapefruit Sweet Potatoes among other things…

September  5 Best sandwich ever. There is always the Moth Sandwich or The GLBT Sandwich: What do vegans do when invited to a Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwich party? They don’t covet the woven bacon, but they admire the cleverness and bring their own twist to the sandwich- Veganase, Guacamole, Lettuce, Fake bacon and Tomato with Spicy Chao Cheese.

September 6 Re-create a restaurant meal. Thinking about perhaps: Sushi, Avocado Appetizer things from The Cheesecake Factory, cheesecake, or a Vegan Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart, penne pasta, artichokes grilled, maybe even Marie Calendar’s Cornbread and????

September 7 Make / eat some thing inspired by a book or film. Still thinking about this one too. I loved the book, Heidi. I remember she carried cheese and bread in her pockets… maybe some kind of vegan fondu? Or what about a To Kill a Mockingbird mock pork roast? Maybe I should look for inspiration in kid’s books like Chocolate Fever, or Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Or James and the Giant Peach, pizza from math fractions books, maybe something from Rol Dahl’s  The Witches, or Sandra Cisneros, or Gary Soto, he had a poem about oranges, what about made up names for foods, like the Science Camp meals were named for marine life. Like Water for Chocolate was both a movie and a book and about cooking, perhaps something with shaved chocolate in it.

September 8 Reach out! Make a new vegan friend & tell us about it. I keep making my friends into temporary vegans.

September 9 Most retro recipe. Raspberry Pineapple Jell-o mold? That weird spinach dip? A cheese log?

September 10 Something blue. My hair, now can I just cook something that doesn’t have blueberries in it? Okay, I just peeked in my Color Me Vegan cookbook under blue/purple. I imagined I would find sad food, or foods to eat when feeling blue. Instead, I found kale, then remembered I have made blue flower ice cubes with borage. I could do blue potatoes, with blueberry ketchup or blue cornbread with blueberry butter like spread. I settled on Black Bean Wasabi Burgers with Blueberry Barbecue Sauce.

September 11 Focus on a nutrient. B12 or D3 Shitake mushrooms, I’m going to check my food nutrient book. This is not a good day for me.

September 12 Tell us about your favorite cookbook! The vegan biscuit one. I will say more on my birthday. September 12th.

September 13 It’s kitchen tour time! video? Oh sheesh! I wish my kitchen looked like my grandmother’s with the light curtains, the white step-stool, the retro red table with shiny chrome edge, red matching chairs with gold sparkley flecks in it and the plate which read around the rim, “you are special today you are special today” into infinity. This is not my house, I’m renting, but one thing that happens to stay the same in all my kitchens is that my spices overflow their drawers, my herbs grow on the balcony and I pinch things to add to my plating, or flavor a meal. The table is in my dreams packed with people enjoying food and conversation, most often I am cooking for two. But making enough for more. I am also big on appliances.

September 14 Share something vegan (and delicious, duh!) with a non-vegan. The non vegans shared something delicious with me the vegan, The Mushroom Chili of Judy’s and the Mango Bean Salad of Lynnette and Andrea.

September 15 OMG, Barack Obama is coming over because he knows you make awesome vegan food! What are you going to make? I heard he doesn’t like beets, I don’t know how anyone could not like beets, maybe I can change his mind.

September 16 What’s your favorite late summer food? Kabocha squash, squashed, souped, sliced.

September 17 Make (or eat!) a traditional local dish. Croatian, Slovenian pasta with truffles. Eaten, check, recreated, soon to check!

September 18 Honor a human or non human animal who inspires your veganism. Ghandi something hot and spicy? Indian food toned down for my mouth.

September 19 Lunch on the go. I want to iron something like Ted Lai, but maybe I will just make some grab and go foods I like to bring to picnics, like hummus and veggies, what else? Bento Box? Dill Pickle Potatoe Salad, sushi, fruit? Sculptures?

September 20 Veganize an old family recipe. The oven crepe? Impossible, maybe not. The jello mold? Not sure, but that one would be great in the retro recipe section.

September 21 What three endless food supplies would you take if you were going to be stranded on an island? (Imagine your nutritional needs have been met, these are a bonus!) Sweet potatoes, the purple ones from Hawaii, popcorn and Reed’s Premium Ginger ale.

September 22 Make a dish using all seasonal produce. What season? Each week I use everything in my CSA veggie box. Maybe I can see how many meals I can fix with one box?

September 23 My brother’s birthday. Autumn equinox eats. research. Equal? Opposites? Light and darks, color complements color wheel, autumnal colors?

September 24 What (inset well known person) would eat if they were vegan. The Marlboro man- smoked everything. Maybe what Harrison Ford, as Indiana or Han would eat? Maroon 5- color or number? Lady Gaga? Robin Williams?

September 25 Share your favorite cuisine. to eat or cook? Mexican, anything fresh from the garden, Croatian, Slovenian soups?

September 26 It’s cold and rainy and there’s a snow drift outside your door! What are you going to make using the ingredients you have? This is September in California it is 90 degrees outside.

September 27 Favorite herb or spice? Cuban oregano.

September 28 Tacos VS Burritos. Where do you stand on this important issue? I am burrito all the way and have explored all the burrito places this side of the Santa Cruz mountains and that side of the Santa Cruz mountains, so here will be my top ten list of best vegan burritios to eat when your mountain biking partner needs a carnitas fix. Dara likes a soft tortilla around hard shell taco. What about the tostada?

September 29 What would you bring on a vegan road trip? Meals on wheels, what do I bring camping, glamping? pancake mix, corn, sprouted lentils, tostadas, Marinated tofu for shish kabob…

September 30 Fusion Challenge! Still confusion.

– See more at: http://www.veganmofo.com/mofo-2105-is-coming/#sthash.5P6ky7L3.dpuf

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