Jun 18, 2015

zuppa toscanan

Zuppa Toscana is an Italian soup made of sausage, potatoes, kale and cream. I made a simple bechamel sauce to replace the cream, which is nothing more than cooking some flour in a little oil and adding the liquid. The flour-based roux thickens the soup and makes it creamy, therefore replacing the need for the cream.

I used ground Tofurkey sausage in this, along with seasoned lentils, but you can use either with equally great results.

I garnished my soup with some leftover Bacon Tofu from Everyday Vegan Eats (page 134) because I made a quadruple batch earlier in the week and I had a little bit leftover. The crisp vegan bacon was quite delicious in this soup and I recommend it highly.

If you have EVE and haven't tried the bacon, I urge you to do so...but go full out and pan-fry it because it gets crispy and crunchy and oh! so tasty.

Zuppa Toscana
Serves 4

3 tablespoons  olive oil, divided
½ medium onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups ground vegan sausage (such as Tofurkey Italian sausage) OR 2 cups cooked lentils (see note)
3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1 ½ cups unsweetened plain vegan milk
3 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf (if not using seasoned lentils)
1 pound red potatoes, chopped
8 ounces kale, tough stems removed and chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
1 cup chopped prepared vegan bacon (such as Bacon Tofu from Everyday Vegan Eats)
½ cup minced fresh basil
1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium high. Add the onion, garlic and sausage, if using. Cook until golden,about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
2. Add the remaining oil and the flour. Cook the flour for 2 minutes and add the milk. Whisk well to prevent lumps. Add the broth, bay leaf, if using, the potatoes and kale. Season with salt and black pepper.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Serve the soup garnished with  bacon and basil.

Note: Cook the lentils with 1 bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds and 1/8 teaspoon red chili flakes.

© 2015 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

Jun 16, 2015

moo shu seitan

This northern Chinese dish is typically made with cabbage, wood ear mushrooms, lily buds, eggs and animals. It is also more often than not made with hoisin sauce, a Chinese barbecue sauce, of sorts, made with bean paste, soy sauce and chiles.

In this delicious vegan rendition, we make our own hoisin sauce as part of the dish using red miso, sambal oelek and tamari.

It is important to note the distinction between white and red miso - white miso is fermented for only a few short months, is sweeter, milder and is the main ingredient in miso soup. Red miso, dark miso and the like, are fermented for more than a year, more often up to three years, is more pungent, is darker and saltier and not sweet.

While hoisin is made with soybean paste and not miso, dark miso is very close in flavor and robustness to soybean paste and is more readily available in stores near you.

The seitan I used is from Vegan Bowls (Amazon, B&N); it is robust, hearty and stands up well to grilling, sauteing and searing. It is the perfect replacement for the traditional meat in this quick stir-fry.

My hubby and I adore wood ear mushrooms, which are curiously black on one side and white on the other when dried, but rehydrate to a dark purple. These mushrooms are very toothsome and give a nice bite without any overpowering mushroom flavor. If you can find it, great, but it not use shiitakes or even button mushrooms.

Moo Shu is served with Mandarin pancakes and they are incredibly easy to make, but if you'd rather not, then just serve the filling with flour tortillas.

Moo Shu Seitan
Serves 4

Mandarin Pancakes:
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil

2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari
1 tablespoon red miso
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sambal oelek
Black pepper

1 pound seitan medallions
2 tablespoons arrowroot starch or cornstarch
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, grated
4 garlic cloves, sliced

2 tablespoons neutral oil
1 cup wood ear mushrooms, rehydrated in hot water, drained and rinsed
1 small cabbage, shredded
5 scallions, minced

1. Pancakes: Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add the water and stir using a fork. Knead lightly and set aside for 20 minutes. Knead until smooth on floured surface and divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten using your palm. Spread ½ teaspoon oil on one disk and top with another disk. Press together and roll into a 6 to 7 inch circle.

2. Preheat a skillet over medium heat and spray with oil. Cook one rolled disk for 20 seconds, covered with a lid. Flip and cook uncovered until puffy, another 30 seconds. Remove from pan, separate the disk into 2 pieces and keep warm between kitchen towels. Repeat with the other 3 pairs.

3. Sauce: Combine the vinegar, tamari, miso, sugar, sambal oelek and black pepper, to taste, in a small bowl. Whisk well until smooth and set aside.

4. Seitan: Combine the seitan, starch, ginger and garlic in a shallow pan. Mix well using your hands to massage the seitan. Set aside.

5. Stir-fry: Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add the seitan and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the cabbage and scallions and cook until wilted, about 4 more minutes. Stir in the sauce and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve the stir-fry with the pancakes.

Substitute: Substitute 8 (6-inch) flour tortillas for the pancakes. Substitute 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms for the wood ears.

© 2015 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

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Jun 14, 2015

middle eastern red lentil soup (shorbat adas)

Red dal is the quickest cooking lentil. Dal is split lentils and red dal is red lentils that are split in half. They take about 15 minutes to cook and taste delicious.

Sharpa adas is a very popular Middle Eastern soup of lentils that is seasoned with lemon, cumin and olive oil and is served with pita.

I add collard greens to this dish to boost it's nutrition; collards contain the highest amount of calcium of all the dark leafy greens. Because they are so bitter, it is a good idea to cook the collards in a pot of water until they are tender before using them in a recipe, about 15 minutes - the time it takes to cook the soup.

I serve this soup with seasoned pita croutons, adding flavor and texture to the soup. The pita is spiked with za'atar, a Middle Eastern spice mix of sesame seeds, thyme and sumac. If you don't have za'atar, season the croutons with 1/2 teaspoon thyme and 2 teaspoons sesame seeds.  

Overall, this is a tasty, nutritious, easy and quick soup to get on the lunch table.

ALSO: If you haven't already entered my contest to win Somer McCowan's new cookbook, The Abundance Diet, make sure to do so, HERE. Contest ends June 22.

Middle Eastern Lentil Soup (Shorbat Adas)
Serves 4

8 ounces collard greens, tough stems removed, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, grated
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons chicken-free broth mix (Savory Broth Mix from Everyday Vegan Eats)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon turmeric
6 cups vegetable broth
1 ½ cups red dal, rinsed and picked over
Sea salt and black pepper
Lemon wedges

Pita Croutons:
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons za’atar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
3 pita breads, cut into 1-inch squares

1. Soup: Cook the collards in a medium pot of salted water until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and chop well. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion and garlic. Cook until softened and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomato breaks down, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth mix, cumin, paprika and turmeric. Stir in the broth and dal. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Cook until the dal is tender. 

3. Croutons: Preheat the toaster oven or oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the oil, lemon juice, za’atar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the pita squares and toss well. transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Stir and continue to bake for another 10 minutes until crisp.

4. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Season the soup with salt and black pepper. Serve with lemon wedges and croutons.

© 2015 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

I'm entering this post into the linky blog party over at Kimmy's blog:

Jun 12, 2015

"the abundance diet" + giveaway

After two long years of struggling with an accident, surgery, physical therapy, recipe development and testing, my good friend Somer McCowan, of Vedgedout,  has finally published her long-awaited cookbook, The Abundance Diet (Vegan Heritage Press, Amazon, B&N) and I couldn't be more proud of her achievement.

Somer has been a huge supporter of me and I am very happy to be able to return the love and take part in the kick-off of her amazing book!

The Abundance Diet is not your run-of-the-mill "diet" book, and, in fact, Somer makes the important distinction that this is decidedly not a diet book, but more of a healthier way to eat. Having said that, this book is a different way of eating in the sense that it is a plan with an end goal in mind - your improved health.

Blueberry Vanilla Green Smoothie, page 50.

I've had the pleasure (and benefit) of participating in Somer's Green Smoothie Challenge and I am pleased to see the entire program souped-up with added information, recipe sections, and components, and is now available in one convenient location. It sure beats having a bunch of papers scattered around to keep track of!

More than outlining the bones of the program, Somer teaches us how to best implement it, save time and money in the process, and how best to make it fit into today's busy lifestyle. If you are at all aware of Somer, you will know that she advocates a whole-foods eating habit and everyone knows that when you leave convenience foods behind, you begin making more and more things from scratch.

That's when her genius kicks in and she plans out the first four weeks for us, making it as easy as conveniently possible. Check out the 4-week menu plan and download it. I print out two copies, one I stick in the book and other I adhere magnets to and on the refrigerator they go!

It is a fact that when someone hits on a new way of eating (for some vegans that will be whole-foods, low/no oil, loads of fresh produce), the easiest way to implement it is to rotate meals for ease and happiness. The palate likes meals to roll back around to savor again so that some familiarity comforts us, even if that familiarity is rather new. Of course, you don't have to follow her menu plan; you can switch things up as much as you want.

As for the recipes, Somer obviously knows her way around the kitchen and she shares her abundance of knowledge and expertise. The dishes are delicious! Beginning with the smoothies themselves: I realize that smoothies are just a bunch of ingredients in a jar, but it sure is nice to have someone make smoothies that taste good! Just ask my kids; I happen to not be an ace in that hole.

Another inventive and smart way to organize your day is Somer's way. She breaks up the day into smoothies/breakfast, soup, salad, snack, main and dessert. It is comforting to have your meals organized into such precise categories because you know what to eat and what to look forward to. Of course, you can eat however you please, and there is no order to follow or time to eat to follow. If you like soup for breakfast, why not? Or soup and salad for lunch? or for dinner? Change it up; what to eat when is flexible and personal.

Here is Somer's Falafel Salad with Quinoa Tabbouleh. The freshness is radiating off the meal, and because it is in The Abundance Diet I know it is healthy, but a secret: it didn't taste like healthy food! So good!

Falafel Salad, page 104

As for the Main dishes, they are just as scrumptious. I made the "Cowboy Special" One-pot Pasta and it was so quick and easy to prepare and so tasty. By the way, those chips are homemade tortillas that were baked. Tortillas were from my upcoming, Vegan Bowls, cookbook. I found some really hard to get blue cornmeal and couldn't resist.

"Cowboy Special" One-pot Pasta, page 183.

To sum it up, if you are looking to change the way you eat, or just want to eat more healthfully, would like a one-stop shop for a program to help you achieve it, complete with recipes and ease of implement, this is your book: The Abundance Diet.

The best way to see if you like the recipes, is to try them out. Along Somer's Blog Tour you will find smoothies, salads, soups and snacks to sample. I'm sharing Somer's  BBQ Roasted Chickpea Snacks. Before I forget to mention, the gorgeous photos in the book are by none other than Annie Oliverio, of An Unrefined Vegan and Virtual Vegan Potluck and the new cookbook Crave Eat Heal (Amazon, B&N); another excellent addition to a whole-foods, plant-based, healthy diet.

Before you leave, make sure to get the recipe below and enter the contest to win a copy of The Abundance Diet. To be eligible to win you must be following this blog via email or RSS feed.
Contest is open to US residents only and is courtesy of Vegan Heritage Press. Contest ends on June 22, midnight. Good luck!

Photo by Ann Oliverio. Used with permission from VHP.

BBQ Roasted Chickpea Snack
I was tooling around in the kitchen making versions of chickpea bacon, but multiple people told me these taste like BBQ chickpeas instead of bacon. No loss, eh? These are absolutely fantastic for snacking on. You may want to make a double batch, as these are super addictive! They make a great salad topping. (Recipe from The Abundance Diet, © 2015 by Somer McCowan. Used by permission from Vegan Heritage Press LLC.)
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon tamari or Bragg Liquid Aminos
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained, well rinsed and then blotted dry with a clean kitchen towel
Preheat the oven to 450°F. In a medium bowl, stir together the liquid smoke, sesame oil, black pepper, smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, maple syrup, sherry, tamari, onion powder, and garlic powder. This is your marinade. Add the chickpeas to the marinade and stir to coat.
Transfer the chickpeas and marinade into an 8x8-inch baking dish lined with parchment paper. Bake the chickpeas for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. The chickpeas will get crispier as they cool. Store in a lidded container in the refrigerator. These are even better, if possible, on the second day.
Makes 4 servings

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Jun 9, 2015

lemon-braised tempeh salad

Braising tempeh (simmering slowly in a flavorful broth) can impart some great qualities to the tempeh, and the longer it cooks, the more flavor it imparts. The truth is, many of us don't have that kind of time, especially for lunch.

Since the tempeh is only lightly flavored (because of the quick braising time) the dressing comes to the rescue, in fact utilizing some of the braising liquid in the body of the sauce.

Cooking the potatoes just until tender is an easy feat with the addition of a steamer basket right over the braising tempeh - a trick that I love to employ since it adds a bit of the liquid's flavor without submerging the entire potato into the liquid itself, and because it saves on pots, water and energy.

I chose frisse salad, but arugula or watercress would make a delightful substitution; just keep it light, no kale or collards. The raw thinly sliced squash fits right into the spring-summer theme and a few slices of scallions and plenty of fresh cracked black pepper round things out nicely.

Lemon-braised Tempeh Salad
Serves 4

½ lemon, cut into ¼-inch slices
¼ onion, sliced
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons capers
1 teaspoon dulse flakes
8 ounces tempeh, cut into ¼-inch slices on a deep bias
Water, as needed
2 medium red potatoes, cut into ¼-inch slices
Sea salt

6 tablespoons reserved cooking broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon vegan mayo
2 pinches natural sugar
2 small garlic cloves, very finely minced

1 head frisee
½ cup parsley leaves
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 small summer squash, cut into thin slices
Black pepper

1. Tempeh: Place the lemon and onion on the bottom of a medium pan. Add the horseradish, capers and dulse. Layer the tempeh slices over the lemon and onion. Add just enough water to cover. Place a steamer basket over the tempeh slices and add the potato slices. Season with salt. Cover, bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender. Remove the steamer basket and the tempeh. Drain off 6 tablespoons of the cooking broth and discard the rest of the broth ingredients.  
2. Dressing: Combine the broth, lemon, oil, mayo, sugar, garlic and season with salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to combine well. Set aside.
3. Salad: Combine the frisee, parsley, scallions and squash in a medium bowl. Set aside.
4. Assembly: Add the salad mix to a bowl, top with potatoes, tempeh and dressing. Serve with lots of fresh ground black pepper.

© 2015 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.

Jun 7, 2015

cajun pasta + coconut-crusted tofu

Making your own, quick Cajun spice mix will allow you to control what actually goes into the mix, the amount of spice it will contain and save you a few bucks. This pasta dish comes together fairly quickly, including pan-frying the coconut-crusted tofu, which reminds me of coconut shrimp from my pre-veg days.

This fresh tomato based sauce reminds me of Hungarian lecso or Latin sofrito, both of which are covered in recipes in my upcoming cookbook, Vegan Bowls (Amazon, B&N). I adore this way of making sauces as it is both flavorful and a snap to prepare. The most important ingredient in the process is patience.

As for the tofu, I am thrilled to have found an easy way to dredge and crust an ingredient without the batter dissolving before being cooked. I didn't try baking it, but am planning on attempting to do so in the future.

Finally, since I received some pedron peppers in my CSA last week, they had to make it onto the plate. I preheated my toasted oven and baked them on 400 for about 5 minutes, until they blistered. You could also quickly fry them in the same pan after all the tofu is cooked. Pedrons have very thin skin so they cook fast. Incidentally, they are delicious!

Cajun Pasta with Coconut-crusted Tofu
Serves 4

12 ounces pasta, cooked al dente, drained and reserving 1 cup of cooking water

Spice Mix:
1 ½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon white pepper
¼ to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons spice mix (above)
1 cup reserved pasta water

¾ cups arrowroot starch or cornstarch, divided
½ cup vegetable broth
2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes, blended for 10 seconds in a blender
2 teaspoons spice mix (above)
1 (14-ounces) package firm or extra firm tofu, pressed, cut into ½-inch slices
4 tablespoons neutral oil

1. Spice Mix: Combine the salt, paprika, garlic, onion, pepper and cayenne in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Sauce: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and celery. Cover and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down, about 10 more minutes. Add the vegetable broth and spice mix. Cook until the broth evaporates, about 4 more minutes. Add the pasta and pasta water. Stir and cook until the pasta is heated through and well coated with the sauce.

3. Tofu: Combine ½ cup of the starch and broth in a shallow dish. Combine the coconut flakes, ¼ cup of the starch and spice mix in a separate shallow dish. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Dredge the tofu in the wet mixture and then in the coconut mixture. Fry the tofu until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels.

4. Assembly: Serve the pasta with the tofu. Sprinkle the dish with more spice mix, as desired.

© 2015 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.