Miso-Tamarind Lentils

Continuing my adventures in cooking without cumin (a temporary situation until my shipment arrives!! NEVER would I voluntarily give up cumin! <3), today’s lunch was a simple, tasty, sweet’n’sour lentil dish. I like to come up with new things to do with tamarind paste, since usually I only use it for Pad Thai, which means that it sits sadly in my fridge wishing it had some higher purpose in life. (Not that there is any higher purpose than my totally badass Pad Thai, but, you know, sometimes it’s nice to have other uses for such a unique ingredient!)

This dish came together quickly and easily. You can always double or triple it to serve more people or if you want to get a few more meals out of it.

1 Tbsp olive oil (or vegetable or coconut oil, any oil you like)
1 onion, chopped
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping Tbsp ginger
1 Tbsp red miso (or try some other kind of miso if that’s what you’ve got!)
2 tsp tamarind paste
1 cup brown lentils (green might work too!)
2.5 cups water
1/4-1/3 cup nutritional yeast
drizzle of toasted sesame oil (optional – use whatever oil is on hand if you don’t have any)
2-3 scallions, finely chopped
a few handfuls of spinach leaves
splash of lime juice (optional)
sriracha (optional)
cooked rice for serving (I always use brown basmati)

Heat the oil over medium heat in a pot large enough to cook the lentils. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes, till translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, give it a stir, then add the miso and tamarind. Stir it up pretty well, but don’t worry if the pastes are still kinda lumpy, because you’re about to add water which will facilitate their even distribution throughout the dish. Pour in the water (see, I told you!) and lentils. Turn the heat up to high. When it reaches a boil (it should do so pretty quickly), turn the heat all the way back down to low, put a lid on the pot, and let it simmer for about 40 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pot (give it a stir and add a little more water if it is!).

If you’re ready to eat it now, proceed immediately to the next step. If not, it’s fine to let it sit in the pot and cool for a bit, and then do the next steps when it’s eatin’ time.

Turn the heat to medium-low. Add the toasted sesame oil (or whatever oil you’re using in its place). Let it heat up for a few seconds, then stir in the scallions and spinach. Add the nutritional yeast and the lime juice and/or sriracha (if using), stirring continuously for a minute or two.

Taste for seasoning; adjust as necessary. Serve with rice.

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Smoky Ginger-Garlic Greens’n’Beans

I ran out of cumin a few days ago! I placed a bulk order from The Spice House, but it will be a few more days at least until I have cumin. Ordinarily what I’d do in this situation is just go to the store and get some cheap cumin to last me the few days till the good stuff arrives, but I’m trying to exercise patience (and resist the temptation to go to the grocery store when I don’t actually need to), so I am using this as an opportunity to play around with some recipe ideas for those rare but inevitable occasions when I do not have any cumin on hand.

The great thing about cumin, and the reason why it’s such a staple of my seasonings palate, is that it gives everything such a rich, deep, earthy flavor that it makes a simple meal feel very substantial. So, in thinking about what combinations I might try to accomplish the same thing, I’m thinking about what other flavors I can amp up in my cooking in order to bring out those qualities in the food.

It’s summer and I’ve been very busy with work and volunteer commitments, so I haven’t been spending as much time cooking as I would if I were less busy. I’m also trying to reduce my food spending by making smaller quantities of food at a time (instead of making way more food than I can or want to eat) and using up all the veggies in my fridge before I go out and buy more (even if I’m all out of something I really want!)

Greens’n’Beans is a staple of my diet. I have a couple different ways I typically prepare it. Any combination of green leafy vegetables and any type of beans can make a delicious dish, and the addition of different spice combinations and/or sauces can create any number of exciting combinations. But it wouldn’t ordinarily occur to me to make this without cumin, because usually that’s what strikes the balance between the simplicity of preparation and the satisfaction of having eaten a full meal. So this is what I came up with, in my cumin-absent kitchen the other day.

1 Tbsp oil (I used vegetable oil; olive or coconut would be just fine too)
10-15 cloves garlic
1-2 Tbsp ginger (minced or powder)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (I like hot smoked, sweet smoked will work just fine, or if you can’t find it, don’t worry about it. It will still be delicious, it just won’t be smoky.)
black pepper (I used a full teaspoon because I really really like black pepper)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
a couple handfuls chopped kale (or whatever greens you have on hand)
soy sauce
lemon juice
1/4-1/3 cup nutritional yeast
pinch of adobo seasoning (optional)
cooked rice for serving (I always use brown basmati)

Heat the oil in a pot (you could also use a wok or frying pan, but I like cooking in pots because I’d rather have too much room than not enough!) over medium heat. Add the garlic, stir, then add the ginger, paprika, and black pepper. Stir in the beans and kale. Add a few splashes of soy sauce and lemon juice so there’s some liquid in there, then turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for a few minutes. Add the nutritional yeast and adobo (if using). Taste for seasoning. Serve with brown rice.

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Slow-Cooker Ginger Miso Shiitake Soup

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3” knob of ginger root, minced
unreal quantities of garlic (I think I used about 25-30 cloves), minced or mashed
1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
4 cups veg broth and/or water (I went half and half)
1/2 cup miso (I used red miso)
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp sesame oil

1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 block tofu, diced
scallions, finely chopped
several handfuls of spinach leaves
cooked noodles (I used soba)
anything else you want in your soup!

Melt the oil in a pan. Saute the onions and ginger for a few minutes, then add the garlic. Put this mixture in the slow cooker. Add mushrooms and broth/water. Stir in the miso, then the turmeric. If you’re adding ingredients that you want to cook with the broth, add them now. (For instance, f you want your tofu softer and more flavorful, add it now; if you want it firmer and more “tofu-flavored”, add it later.) then turn the slow cooker on. I cooked mine on low for 6 hours.

When the broth is ready, add whatever additional ingredients you’d like, stir it up, and serve!

(adapted from: http://mountainroseblog.com/shiitake-mushrooms-wellness-miso-ginger-soup/)

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Sweet’n’Sour Pad Thai

A friend made me some really good Pad Thai the other night and I’ve been wanting to play around with my go-to Pad Thai recipe for a while, so I came up with this. I made it in the middle of the night, so I was kinda just throwing stuff together, but it came out so well I really wanted to share it. Here’s what I think I did!

2 Tbsp tamarind paste
2 Tbsp miso paste (I used white miso)
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup soy sauce (I used Bragg’s liquid aminos)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1-2 Tbsp sriracha (leave it out if you like it mild)

everything else:
1 block (14oz) tofu, cubed
~8oz noodles (I used brown rice noodles)
oil for sauteeing (I used peanut oil)
12-15 cloves garlic, minced
a whole lot of ginger (I used about a Tbsp ginger powder)
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 head broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
~10 scallions, chopped
3/4 cup coconut milk (I strongly recommend full fat, from a well-shaken can!)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup peanuts (you can chop or crush them if you like!)
mung bean sprouts (optional)

Combine the marinade ingredients in a container that has a lid you can shut (like a tupperware). Put the tofu in the container with the marinade. Shut the lid and shake it up really well! If you wish, dance or twirl or roll around your kitchen while you do this; it will make it taste better. Put the container in the fridge for 4 hours (if you need to eat this TODAY) or overnight (if you’re planning ahead for somethin’ extra-special).

Cook the noodles according to package instructions. When they’re done, drain them and set them aside.

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the garlic and ginger. (If you’re using fresh ginger, put them in at the same time; if powder, put the garlic in first and give it a minute or so.) Get your tofu out of the fridge and dump the entire contents of the container (sauce and all) into the pot. Stir. Add the cilantro and broccoli. Let this cook for 5 minutes or so, then add the scallions. After another minute or so, add the coconut milk, stir for a bit, then add the nutritional yeast. Now put the noodles in the pot with everything else and stir really well to combine all the ingredients with the noodles. Add the peanuts. Garnish with mung bean sprouts if you’re into that.

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Crockpot Chili, Ropa Vieja Style

I adapted this recipe from the Ropa Vieja recipe in Robin Robertson’s cookbook The name “ropa vieja” translates as “old clothes”, referring to the texture of shredded meat in the traditional preparation of this dish, whose origins are traced to Sephardic Jewish kitchens in Cuba and Spain. Shredded seitan will give you that texture; I’ve also added red cabbage which will do the same thing, and you can add more of that if you’re not using seitan but still want to get a similar mouth-feel.

Traditionally this dish would include bell peppers; I can’t eat those, but if you can, go for it.

1 medium onion, chopped
12-15 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
1-2 cups portabello mushroom, diced
olive oil (optional)
1 25oz can tomato sauce (any kind you like – I use Whole Foods brand Italian Herb)
1 Tbsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp chili powder (I use Vulcan Fire Salt, which is an in-house blend from the Spice House in Chicago, but you can use any chili powder or no chili powder or…whatever you like)
1 tsp smoked paprika (I use smoked hot paprika; if you don’t like things as spicy as I do, you might used smoked sweet or just leave this out)
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
cilantro (to your liking)
salt (to taste)
1 15oz can black beans
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
1lb seitan OR 1lb tofu OR another can of beans OR 1 cup soy curls or TVP (add an extra cup of water or veg broth if using dehydrated protein)
chopped greens — as much as you like, any kind (I usually use something hearty like kale or collards)
lime juice
nutritional yeast (optional)

Put the veggies in the crockpot. Drizzle olive oil over them if desired. Add all the other ingredients except the greens and nutritional yeast. Stir. Cook on low for 4-6hrs. Add greens, lime juice, and yeast. Taste for seasoning; adjust as needed. Cook on low for another 30 minutes. Serve with grain of your choice (I like brown basmati rice).

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Creamy Root Veg Soup with Chickpeas and Greens

I adapted this recipe from I used yam, beet, and ginger root in the base instead of sweet potato, carrot, and celery. I was planning to use a sweet potato, but when I went to the store last night there were no sweet potatoes and there was exactly one yam, which I snatched up promptly, and it worked very nicely. This soup goes well with quinoa and is a delicious wintry treat.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
12-15 cloves garlic
1 large yam
1 beet (save the greens!)
1/4 – 1/2 cup ginger root
teeny tiny pinch of cloves
salt & pepper
6 cups water

Heat the oil in your soup pot. Chop the veggies coarsely — everything’s going in the blender at the end, so don’t worry about making the bits bite-sized. You can peel your root veggies if you want to; I usually don’t, especially since they’re going in the blender. Saute the onion for a couple minutes, then add all the other solid ingredients and stir for another couple minutes. Add the water. Turn the heat up high and bring it to a boil, then turn it all the way to low. Cover the pot and let simmer for 30-35 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for at least 15-20 minutes. Put everything in the blender or food processor (you may need to do this in batches unless your device is enormous), and process till smooth. You can freeze whatever you don’t use right away.

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cardamom
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
ground red pepper powder to taste (I used 1 tsp Vulcan Fire Salt)
1 can coconut milk
4 cups creamy root veg broth (see above)
greens (use the beet greens you saved, and add any other leafy greens you like)
2 cans chickpeas
lemon juice, toasted sesame oil, nutritional yeast as desired

Melt the coconut oil in your soup pot. Add the spices and let them toast for a minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the coconut milk, broth, greens, and chickpeas. Simmer for 15-30 minutes. You can leave it alone for a while, but check it periodically to make sure it’s not burning on the bottom. Add lemon juice, toasted sesame oil, and/or nutritional yeast to your liking.

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Indonesian-Inspired Curry Soup with Hazelnut Base

This recipe was loosely inspired by this recipe from Spice Island Vegan. I had quite a few toasted hazelnuts left over from an adventure with homemade nutella a few months ago, which turned out to be perfect in this recipe. I highly recommend using coconut oil if possible, as it brings out the flavors really optimally and gives the soup a nice rich texture, but if you prefer to use soy butter, or even ordinary olive oil or vegetable oil, that will work just fine too.

1 medium onion
12-15 cloves garlic
1” knob ginger root
1 cup toasted hazelnuts
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp black pepper
8 cups veg broth
2 cups dry TVP chunks or soy curls
1 bunch chopped cilantro
2-3 medium potatoes, chopped into bite sized chunks
~2 cups red cabbage, chopped into bite size chunks
any veggies you want, really
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (optional)
soy sauce and lemon juice to taste

Combine the onion, garlic, ginger, and hazelnuts in a food processor. Process into a paste.
Melt the coconut oil in your soup pot. Saute the paste for 5 minutes or so. Add the spices, let them toast in there for a minute or two, then add the veg broth, TVP, cilantro, and whateever veggies you’re using. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add the nutritional yeast (if using) and soy sauce and/or lemon juice to your heart’s content. Serve with brown basmati rice or noodles or whatever grain you prefer.

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