Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pasta with Fried Lemons, Chickpeas and Almonds

Here's a vegan takeoff on this recent recipe from The New York Times, with additional inspiration from the classic Italian dish pasta alla ceci, this Greek dish, a pasta recipe I linked to a while back, and the wonderful site 101cookbooks, which first turned me on to the idea of putting toasted almonds on top of pasta. I dedicate this recipe to my husband, who loves things that are very, very lemony.

Pasta with Fried Lemons, Chickpeas and Almonds

4 lemons
1 lb pasta
4 T olive oil
1 lb frozen chopped spinach, or bag of fresh spinach
large handful of slivered almonds (1/2 c or so)
2 T Earth Balance margarine (optional) 
3/4 t red pepper flakes, or to taste
8 cloves garlic (believe it or not, this is also OPTIONAL)
1 t salt
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 t — 1 t thyme, to taste
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Put a big pot of salted water on to boil. Zest two lemons. Juice one of them. Set aside the zest and juice.

Cut the ends off the other two lemons and quarter them lengthwise. Take out the seeds. Thinly slice the quarters. Blanch for 2 or 3 minutes in the boiling water, remove with a slotted spoon, and pat dry with a dishtowel or paper towels.

Put the pasta in the water and boil until just al dente. It will be getting cooked a bit more after you take it out of the water, so don't overboil it now. Drain it, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Put 1 T oil in a big skillet and fry the lemon slices with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar, until caramelized—that is, browned at the edges—3 to 5 minutes. Take them out of the pan and set aside.

Steam fresh spinach for a couple of minutes, or if it's frozen, cook it in the microwave.

Toast a handful of slivered almonds in a dry skillet, stirring a few times, until fragrant and slightly browned.

Heat the remaining oil, and margarine if using, in the big skillet you used for the lemon slices. Add red pepper flakes, caramelized lemons, and garlic if using. Cook on medium low until garlic is very slightly browned. Add the pasta water, the pasta, the lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper to taste, thyme, and chickpeas. Mix in the spinach and toasted almonds. Toss until it's all warmed through. Taste and see if you want to add any more lemon, olive oil, salt or pepper.

Enjoy, and have a happy Halloween! 

Edward Gorey, cover for Nineteenth Century German Tales, 1959, via 50watts

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dosas and Tomato Chutney

I cannot make pancakes. I can't. I think it might have something to do with not knowing how hot the pan should be, or not keeping the heat consistent enough. I'm not sure. I just know I can't make them.

I don't claim to be spectacularly good at cooking anything. The whole point of this blog is recipes that are so easy they're impossible even for me to mess up. And I can mess up anything that resembles a pancake, so maybe shouldn't be posting any of those.

Yet I also feel sure there must be a lot of people who can make this delicious, simple, ancient, protein-packed dish. And I enjoyed eating even the wrecks that I produced. So I'm going to post this.

You might ask why I'm using my own recipe instead of linking to one by someone who actually makes these successfully. Mine is basically the same, but simplified. The batter tastes great. I've followed enough pancake and pancake-like recipes written by experts to the letter, and fouled them up anyway, that I'm pretty sure it's not my batter's fault that my dosas don't come out right. It's something about me. Since I won't be there in your kitchen, jinxing everything, I think you'll be okay. Feel free to leave negative comments if that's not the case. Or follow this very nice recipe, from which mine is only slightly adapted.

So: Dosas are are sort of South Indian crepe made from rice and lentils that have been fermented and ground up. So, protein. The fermenting takes a while, but at its easiest it just means leaving them for some hours in a bowl with a plate over the top, so it's not a big deal. Then you cook the dosas in a hot pan, and that only takes a few minutes. You can have them with any kind of chutney; I'm including a recipe for an easy one made of tomatoes and onions. You could also just buy chutney at the grocery store.


1 cup raw brown rice
1 cup raw lentils, any kind
pinch of turmeric
1 or 2 t chopped fresh ginger
salt and pepper to taste

Put the rice and lentils into a bowl with six cups of water, put a plate on top, and leave sitting out for four hours or, even better, overnight.

Strain them over a bowl, reserving the water. Put them in your blender with the turmeric, ginger and salt and pepper. Blend, adding enough water to make a thin batter, like crepe batter. It should be kind of a buttermilk consistency, or even thinner. You can start buttermilky, then experiment with thinning until you get the thickness you like when you cook them. You don't want big chunks in the batter, but it's okay if there's a little graininess; it shouldn't be perfectly smooth.

Heat a pan, slightly oiled, as you would for crepes or pancakes, and pour in dosa batter. Cook a few minutes on each side. They should ideally come out round, very thin, and crispy around the edges, not lumpy, weird, half-cooked and irregular like all of mine.

Fresh Tomato Chutney

Here's a very simple fresh tomato chutney from the BBC that will go nicely with your dosas.

Piet Mondrian, Wood with Beech Trees, c. 1899

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Soy-Free Dishes

People can panic when confronted with the idea of trying to eat vegan and soy free.

(Just like I did when I learned I'd need gluten-free vegan recipes for family dinners.)

But believe it or not, most of the recipes on this blog are soy-free anyway. If you can get past stressing over the idea of going soy-free and vegan at the same time, you'll find there's plenty to eat. And it's not expensive, exotic, or complicated, because nothing on this site is.

Most of the recipes are also packed with protein. You do not need tofu to get protein as a vegan.

Soy-Free Dishes

Butter Bean Burgers 

Butternut Squash Curry 

Cashew and Green Bean Pasta 

Cashew Curry  (without optional tofu)

Cauliflower and Potato Curry

Chana Saag 

Chickpea Flour Scramble 

Chickpea Pasta with Almonds 

Chickpea Spinach Stew with Lentils and Quinoa 


Chocolate Swirl Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips 

Coconut Red Lentil Soup 

Coconut Red Lentils with Spinach and Cashews 


Creamy Ginger Butternut Squash Soup 

Curried Rotini wuth Currants and Red Peppers 

Favorite Bread 

Georgian Bean Salad with Walnuts and Herbs

Georgian Tomato Soup

Green Pea Hummus

Hummus and Sandwich Spreads 

Iranian Rice with Beans and Dill

Israeli Bean Soup (and Palestinian Spinach Pies)

Jamaican Rice and Peas

Kale and White Bean Stew

Laurie's Amazing Bean Salad

Madam BenoƮt's Pea Soup

Mark Bittman's Nut Burgers


Moroccan Sweet Potato Stew 


Oat Milk 

Palestinian Spinach Pies (and Israeli Bean Soup) 

Pasta with Cauliflower 

Pasta with Fried Capers 

Pasta Topping 

Persian Red Lentil Soup with Tomatoes 

Quinoa with Spiced Lentil Dal 

Red Bean Curry (Rajma) 

Rice and Beans

Senate Bean Soup

Simple Flatbread 

Simple Salsa 

Smokey Saucy Chickpeas with Spinach 

Spiced Red Beans in Coconut Milk 

Spinach and Nut Sauce for Pasta 


Qi Baishi, The Chickens are Happy, 1949

Monday, October 6, 2014

Esther the Wonder Pig

I mentioned Esther the Wonder Pig here once, a long time ago, and she's worth mentioning again. If you don't know her, click on over and meet her!

Here's the link to her facebook page.

She does have a website, but her real presence in on facebook where you can see her (a 500-lb pig) hogging her dads' bed, sleeping with her doggie family members, eating Oreos, sitting and patiently waiting for a treat by the kitchen counter. 

Her dads bought her from someone who told them she was a "mini pig," but it turned out they'd been had—she's a standard pig, exactly like the ones raised on factory farms for bacon. They kept her anyway. There is something very moving about seeing her—the same breed, size, and color as the hundreds of thousands who go to slaughter every day—lying on a big soft couch with a fuzzy blanket thrown over her, eating cookies.

If you want to see the others who are not so lucky—you probably don't, but if you do—the amazing Toronto Pig Save bears witness as they go through the city on their way to slaughter. Volunteers reach through the openings in the transport trucks to feed them lettuce and melon, give them water and photograph their faces when the trucks are stopped. If you ever wondered whether pigs were more or less okay with being transported to slaughter, have a look at their faces in TPS's photographs. It's an extraordinary view of these thinking, feeling beings that the big agriculture concerns do not want you see.

In honor of Esther, today's recipe is Creamy Ginger Butternut Squash Soup from Esther's Kitchen. It's great—sweet, salty and rich with the fall flavors of sweet potato, squash and apple.

Thanks, Esther.

Jamie Wyeth, Baby Jane in Summer, 1978