Thursday, August 29, 2013

Very Simple Salsa

This is from the post A Week of Meals for $29.78, in which I used Corey Booker's food stamp budget to plan a week of meals that would have adequate calories, fruits and vegetables, and protein for a large, active man like Booker--and be vegan!

It was not easy, and would have been impossible without access to a computer and hours to calculate and plan. But I did it, and if you're ever in a budget crunch it can serve as a guide to a week of very inexpensive vegan meals.

Simple Salsa

1 minced hot green pepper, to taste

1 small clove garlic, minced (scant 1 t)
1 T chopped onion
2 t oil
1 t vinegar 
a couple of diced tomatoes, or 14 oz canned if necessary
salt to taste   

Strain the chopped tomatoes over a bowl to save the liquid. Put the drained tomatoes in a bowl, and mix in everything else. [If you have red wine vinegar, use that instead of plain.] Then add back some of the liquid until you get the consistency you like. Refrigerate before eating if possible. You can make it the night or morning before you eat it.

Southern Tunisian Gardens, Paul Klee, 1919

Monday, August 19, 2013

Persian Red Lentil Soup with Tomatoes

My version of a Persian red lentil soup.

The herbs and spices are basically all optional. If you have no spices, the soup will still be great with just the flavors of the onion, garlic, salt and lime. But fresh herbs, and especially dill (dried or fresh) are a nice touch.

3 T oil
1 chopped onion
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t coriander
3 cloves garlic sliced
1 heaping cup red lentils 
4 c broth
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1/4 lime
1 T sumac
2 T dried dill
1/2 t tarragon
2 handfuls fresh parsley
and/or other fresh herbs to taste: tarragon, cilantro, basil, mint, dill, chives
juice of 1/2 lime
salt and pepper

Warm the oil in a pan. Add turmeric and coriander and sautee a minute until fragrant. Add onion with a pinch of salt and cook till onion is soft. Add garlic and sautee for one minute. Add tomatoes, broth, red lentils, and 1/4 lime. (Just throw the chunk of lime in there with its skin--washed first)

Simmer 20 minutes or so till lentils are soft. Add sumac, dill, tarragon, and/or fresh herbs, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste, and simmer a few more minutes. 

Flower Myth, Paul Klee, 1918

Rice and Beans

My version of rice and beans. It's so good and cheap and easy. I make it often.

Rice and Beans

Four cans of beans: black, pinto, red kidney, or a combination. Or half a pound of dry beans, cooked.
Olive oil (or whatever oil you have)
Chopped garlic: a whole head, or a few cloves, whatever you like
Cocoa powder, a dash or two

Optional: a quarter cup of red wine or beer, or a spoonful of red wine vinegar or other vinegar; a teeny bit of canned chipotles; Liquid Smoke or smoked paprika; chili powder or hot pepper or hot sauce; broth or a bouillon cube; whatever else you think would taste good

Toppings: chopped avocado with lemon juice and salt and/or crumbled corn chips. And/or salsa, hot sauce, chopped tomatoes, chopped green onions, cilantro, or whatever you like.

Rice: I like brown, but you can use any kind

Saute the garlic in the oil for just a minute. Add beans and cocoa powder, and any optional ingredients, a little bit at a time, smelling and tasting as you go to see if you like it.

Serve over rice. Top with toppings. I like to have a bit of something fatty and salty on top, so I really like to use either salted avocado or crumbled tortilla chips, along with whichever  of the other toppings I have on hand.

A Near Distance, Perle Fine, 1961

Quinoa with Spiced Lentil Dal

A favorite from The New York Times.

As usual, I simplify this when I make it: I just use regular quinoa and regular lentils.

When approaching vegan cooking for the first time, people sometimes worry about having to hunt all over for unfamiliar and possibly expensive ingredients to make exotic dishes. I never do that. Lots of vegan recipes are simple and cheap to begin with, but if I come across one like this that calls for something unusual like red quinoa, I just ignore it and use the regular kind, and everything (almost) always turns out not only fine, but delicious.

Quinoa with Spiced Lentil Dal

One-Pot Curried Rotini with Currants, Peas and Red Peppers

This calls for a cup of peas, but as usual I would use a whole bag of frozen peas or even more, because I like to get all my vegetables for the meal into one dish. And it tastes good that way.

One-Pot Curried Rotini with Currants, Peas and Red Peppers

Coconut Red Lentils with Spinach and Cashews

I love this dish!

When I make this, I use a whole bag of frozen spinach (you could probably even use more), and a lot of cashews. I like to toast the nuts first in a dry skillet on the stovetop or in the oven, until they get fragrant and start to brown. You can serve the whole thing over brown rice.

All the ingredients for this are available in a regular grocery store. If you don't have something, like mustard seeds, you can just leave it out. Or if you don't have red lentils, it would be fine with ordinary lentils. 

Coconut Red Lentils with Spinach and Cashews

Kale and White Bean Stew

This has a lovely delicate flavor! I didn't even add white wine, and instead of sherry vinegar I used some cheap store-brand red wine vinegar, and it was still delicious. I can only imagine what it would have tasted like if I'd made it right. I doubled the beans for more protein.

Kale and White Bean Stew


Chili is an easy thing to make vegan, and so satisfying. This is the way I like to make it:


splash of olive oil
one chopped onion
chili powder, 1 T or to taste
cumin to taste
bell pepper, either a whole one chopped, or a couple of handfuls of frozen
minced garlic, as much as you like (a whole head is not too much for me)
tomatoes, boxed or canned-- I use a big 28-oz can of chopped tomatoes
vegetable broth or bouillon cube
1/2 pound dry beans, cooked; or four cans of beans: pinto, red kidney, black, or a mix (I like a mix)
half a bag of frozen corn, or to taste
1/4 cup of red wine, or 1 T of red wine vinegar or other vinegar
1 - 3 t cocoa powder
smoked paprika, and/or a little bit of canned chipotle (start with a teeny bit--it's hot!)

(Pretty much all of these ingredients are optional, except the beans, onion, corn and tomatoes.)

Possible toppings:
You can use some, all or none of these:
chopped avocado with salt and lemon (or lime! yum!)
crumbled tortilla chips
hot sauce
green onions
chopped tomato

Heat olive oil. Sautee onions until soft. Add chili powder and cumin. Stir until fragrant. Add bell pepper, cook a couple of min. Add garlic, cook a minute. Add everything else and cook as long as you like, at least until everything is heated through. I usually simmer about 20 minutes. If cooking for a long time, add the wine or vinegar in the last 10 or 15 minutes.

If you want to add a texture similar to crumbled meat, you can add a handful of bulgur wheat while it's cooking. This will take about 20 minutes to get cooked in the tomato sauce/broth. Or you can pour boiling water over it ahead of time, let it sit 20 min, then add to the chili. Bulgur wheat can often be found in the store near the other dry grains, like rice and barley.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Pasta Topping

Toasted almonds, by themselves, make a nice topping for almost any pasta. You can use them anywhere you would Parmesan. (Don't expect them to taste like Parmesan. They're just good in their own way.)

To toast them just put them in a dry skillet, and put the skillet on the stove or in the oven at some kind of medium-ish heat. They're done when they start to smell good and turn a bit brown.

If you have more time, you can take those toasted almonds, and/or any other kind of nut, toasted or not, and put them in a blender with dry toast (or breadcrumbs) and a clove of garlic, and some salt. Grind it all up, then put a little oil in a pan and saute it for a few minutes. This makes a really yummy and addictive topping to sprinkle on pasta dishes. You can make a lot all at once and freeze it if you like.

Smokey Saucy Chickpeas with Spinach

This calls for one spice that might be considered unusual, smoked paprika. Around here you can get it at most grocery stores. It's worth buying if you can because it's so yummy in so many things (such as chili, rice and beans, etc.)

You could substitue a dash of Liquid Smoke, available in a lot of grocery stores in the sauce section (near the steak sauce, etc). It's also great in lots of dishes.

The recipe is from BEN & birdy

*Cheapness/easiness cheat: I used two bags of frozen spinach, which I always keep on hand; and store-brand red wine vinegar instead of sherry vinegar, and it still tasted great.

Smokey Saucy Chickpeas with Spinach