Monthly Archives: August 2015

Apple Date Nut Cake

 Apple Date Nut CakeI went to pick up my CSA share at the farm the other day and noticed a sign inviting the shareholders to pick their own apples from a tree behind the farm house. Since I enjoy picking apples and had some time on my hands, I decided to check it out. Out back there was a huge tree with green apples. These apples are not as tart as Granny Smiths, so  they’re good for both snacking and baking. I tend to make desserts that store well in the freezer and travel nicely in a lunch box or picnic basket, so I decided to make an apple cake. I wanted to experiment with aquafaba, the liquid  from chickpeas and beans that usually gets poured down the drain. I used a recipe (circa 1973)  from Woman’s Day magazine as my starting point.  I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so I like to keep desserts as “whole food” as possible. For this recipe I used dates and maple syrup instead of sugar, whole wheat pastry flour and limited the amount of coconut oil to 1/4 cup. It’s been my experience that cakes made without dairy and eggs tend to have a rubbery or gummy texture. Add some weighty ingredient, like apples, and it’s a safe bet the cake will be a little on the dense side. The key to preventing this cake from being too weighed down was to whip the aquafaba into soft peaks and fold it into the other ingredients. The result was a cake that was moist, slightly sweet with a tender texture. This cake will be a staple in our home this fall. Pick a peck (or two) of apples, make an Apple Date Nut Cake and make it a Vegi-curious day!

Apple Date Cake

  • 1 cup dates
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
  • ½ cup non-dairy milk
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated apples
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons aquafaba (liquid from chickpeas or white beans)
  • 1/8 teaspoon xanthan or guar gum (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly coat a tube pan with coconut oil.

In food processor, combine dates, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Process until dates are finely ground. Pour into large mixing bowl.

Whisk coconut oil, milk, syrup and vanilla in medium bowl. Stir in apples and walnuts; add to dry ingredients and mix well.

In a separate bowl, beat aquafaba with xanthan gum until soft peaks form. Fold into batter. Place into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour or until knife inserted comes out almost dry. Let cool in pan about 10 minutes, then remove to cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing.

 

29 Aug 2015

Stir it up: Swiss Chard with Garlic-Roasted Chickpeas

Swiss Chard Garlic Roasted Chickpeas

I wish I could say I was an” old sage” when it comes to gardening, but I like to refer to myself as “the accidental gardener”. My experience with gardening has been kind of hit or miss. This year I’ve had a few hits, one of them being Swiss Chard. Swiss Chard is typically a cooler weather crop, but I planted a row of a non-bolting variety in partial shade. It’s taken a long time but I finally have a nice harvest for a substantial meal. Greens all by themselves don’t make a hearty meal, but when you add some legumes you have a meal with some staying power.  Any type of leafy greens are loaded with fiber and antioxidants, so try to include them in your diet on a daily basis. This recipe adds a layer of flavor by roasting the chickpeas with garlic and shallots and then tossing them with the sauteed greens. Other greens like spinach, kale, collard or mustard greens can stand in for the chard. I like to serve this dish with a rustic bread, but perhaps some roasted potatoes would round out the meal just as well. If you’re inclined to try your hand at gardening, now’s the time to plant some cool-weather greens. The next best thing is to pick up some fresh greens at a local farmers market. Stir up some greens and make it Vegi-curious day.

Swiss Chard Saute with Garlic-Roasted Chickpeas

Beans:

2 (15.5-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained (about 3 cups)

10 garlic cloves, peeled

2 large shallots or 1 small onion, chopped

3 small bay leaves, preferably fresh

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine ingredients in 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish. Cover dish with foil. Roast until garlic is tender, about 45 minutes.

Chard:

2 cups water (or vegetable broth)

1 tsp. Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base (if not using vegetable broth)

½ tsp. liquid smoke

extra-virgin olive oil (optional)

6 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed

3 small bay leaves

2 shallots, sliced

1 lb. Swiss chard, roughly chopped

Mix together water, bouillon and liquid smoke; set aside.

Lightly coat large non-stick skillet with oil and heat over medium-high heat. (Or use 2 tablespoons of water or broth.) Add garlic, bay leaves and shallots. Cover; cook until shallots are tender, about 2 minutes. Add chard in batches and toss until chard wilts and volume is reduced by half. Add broth. Cover and cook until chard is tender and broth is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Season chard with salt and pepper.

Add chickpeas to chard in large skillet. Continue to cook over medium heat about 5 minutes. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Note: You can use more Swiss chard or substitute other greens for the chard.

26 Aug 2015

Cool as a Cucumber Salad

Cucumber SaladNothing says summer more than picnics in the park, a day at the beach and family barbeques. Here’s a cool and crunchy cucumber salad to enjoy with bean burgers and corn on the cob. Now’s the time to take advantage of those baskets of cucumbers found at your local farm stand.  The basic recipe is made with Kirby cucumbers, but I’ve also used my home-grown lemon cucumbers with the same tasty results.You can adjust the amount of sugar to your taste. Experiment with different herbs such as dill, lemon basil, tarragon, etc. So simple, so delicious, so coooool. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

 

Cold Cucumber Salad

1 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon celery seeds
Salt
1 quart Kirby cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced

minced fresh dill to taste

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the vinegar, sugar, celery seeds and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil,then remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. In a large bowl, toss the sliced cucumbers, onion and dill with the vinegar mixture. Refrigerate overnight. Serve cold.

 

18 Aug 2015

Over the Top Polenta Towers

Polenta TowersSummer is in full swing, which means you’ll be seeing mountains of deep purple eggplants, juicy tomatoes and summer squash in every shade of yellow and green. When you’re working with fresh-from-the-farm vegetables, you don’t need to make a fuss; just let the natural flavors shine through on their own. One of the easiest ways to do this is to make a vegetable saute. You can enjoy it on its own or serve it with a baked potato or some crusty bread. You can toss the vegetables with some pasta like rotini or farfalle to serve a large crowd or just to have leftovers to enjoy later in the week. I’ve been having vegetable sautes over grilled polenta slices. I slice store-bought polenta logs and grill them on the barbeque, then spoon the veggies on top. To make the Polenta Towers,  I packed the sauted veggies into a ramekin that’s the same diameter as the polenta slice, inverted it on top and voila! The Towers make a nice first course for company or yourself. I had a slice of Sicilian pizza in the fridge and topped that off with the eggplant-zucchini saute for a quick and satisfying lunch. Mmmmmmmmmmm. So pick up an assortment of summer vegetables and saute away. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

pizza

Eggplant-Zucchini Saute

Makes 4 servings

  •  4 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 small eggplants, chopped
  • 4 large cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained with liquid reserved
  • Oregano, salt and pepper to taste

Lightly coat non-stick skillet with olive oil (or heat 2 tablespoons of water). Add zucchini and cook until golden brown. Remove to bowl. Repeat with eggplant and remove to bowl. Re-coat skillet or add more water. Add garlic and brown lightly. Add tomatoes and cook for about 10 minutes, adding reserved liquid to prevent the tomatoes from drying. Add zucchini and eggplant and continue cooking until vegetables are tender and tomatoes take on a rich reddish-brown color.

Serving Suggestions:

Serve over grilled polenta slices, toss with pasta or use as a pizza topping.

 

13 Aug 2015

Sunday Dinner Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant Parm

Eggplant Parmigiana

Sunday dinner was a religion in my family. In their heyday, my grandmother and mother made the best eggplant parmigiana, hands down. If you don’t believe me, ask any one of my cousins. I was lucky to be able to learn from two of the best home cooks that ever walked this earth and this recipe was left in my hands. I’ve been reluctant to make eggplant parmigiana for a few reasons:

 

One. We would dip the eggplant slices in egg, then coat them with bread crumbs.

Two. The coated slices were then fried in oil.

Three. The slices were layered with tomato sauce (which is okay), and mozzarella (which is not okay).

How could I leave out the eggs, oil and mozzarella yet still stay true to the family recipe and that awesome eggplant parmigiana taste? It wasn’t until I discovered two things: Aquafaba and The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook.

Aquafaba is the liquid that results from cooking chickpeas and beans. There’s a facebook group dedicated to Aquafaba recipes. The members of the group experiment and share recipes (mostly baked goods) using aquafaba. The recipes on this site look amazing. For this recipe, I used the aquafaba instead of egg to coat the eggplant slices and it worked beautifully.

Breaded Eggplant

Breaded Eggplant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the next amazing discovery is The Non-Dairy Evolution cookbook. I bought this book a few months ago. I made a few cheeses, but made the mistake of using virgin coconut oil instead of refined coconut oil giving the cheese a strong coconut taste. I put the book away until this morning. I made a batch of non-dairy mozzarella using the refined coconut oil this time. It took about 15 minutes to make and six hours to set up in the fridge. I couldn’t believe my eyes or mouth! It looks, feels, shreds, slices, and tastes like mozzarella. Look, I’m from Brooklyn, so I know good mozzarella. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a Brooklyn cheese store mozzarella, but it’s the best non-dairy mozzarella I’ve had in three years.

Non-Dairy Evolution Mozzarella

Non-Dairy Evolution Mozzarella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The secret to great eggplant parmigiana is in the layering: sauce, eggplant, sauce, mozzarella and repeat. It’s no secret that my family loves to cook and loves to eat. And we never kept our recipes secret either. So I’m happy to share my family’s recipe for Eggplant Parmigiana; still made with love, but not with eggs or dairy. Dinner’s at 2:00 on Sunday in my house. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Eggplant Parmagiana

Aquafaba is the liquid that chickpeas and beans are cooked in. This recipe uses the liquid from canned chickpeas.

2 small eggplants (about 2 lbs. total), thinly sliced
¼ cup Aquafaba (see notes)
¼ tsp. black salt
1/8 tsp. turmeric
Breadcrumbs (see notes)
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 tablespoon parsley

2 quarts of marinara sauce
2 Tablespoons dried oregano

8 oz. plant-based mozzarella, thinly sliced
(I use the mozzarella recipe from The Non-Dairy Evolution)

Notes: The amount of aquafaba and breadcrumbs can vary depending on how many slices of eggplant you get and how thickly you coat them. Start with 1/4 cup aquafaba and ½ cup of breadcrumbs and add more as you go along.

Line large rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Stir together aquafaba, black salt and turmeric. Season breadcrumbs with garlic powder, pepper and parsley. Drip eggplant slices in aquafaba “egg”, then coat both sides with breadcrumbs. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake on lowest rack for about 10 minutes per side. Depending on your oven, you might have to adjust the baking time and temperature, so keep an eye of them. Remove from oven and let cool.

To assemble:

Mix marinara with oregano. Cover the bottom of an 8” square baking dish with sauce, then a layer of eggplants, more sauce, then about one-half of the cheese. Repeat for two more layers, ending with a layer of sauce. Place in 350 degree oven until sauce “cooks” in to the eggplant, about 45 minutes. Add a thin layer of shredded mozzarella on top and place in oven for another five minutes. Remove and cool slightly before serving.

 

 

 

09 Aug 2015

T.G.I.F. Chocoholics Anonymous

Chocolate SmoothieSometimes I just can’t make a decision, especially when it comes to food choices. “What should we have for dinner?” “Where should we go out for dinner?” “Should we look at the dessert menu before or after dinner?”  Maybe the problem is that I have TOO many choices. And so it goes when I’m mixing up a new recipe for my T.G.I.F. column. Last week I made a smoothie with almond milk, cocoa powder, bananas and dates. Hmmmm . . .  what blends well with chocolate, bananas and dates? My first instinct was Creme de Cacao, but that’s another layer of chocolate. I wanted to add a splash of something that would complement the chocolate rather than add to it. Rum goes nicely with chocolate and bananas. But so would Italian Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur or coffee-flavored Kahlua from Mexico. Decisions, decisions. The decision was easy. Why not make all three and do a comparison? Well, the results are not shocking . . . I love them all. The rum version reminded me of the Chocolate Rum Balls we used to buy from a bakery in New Jersey. The drink made with Frangelico was like a chocolate-hazelnut torte. The Kahlua-laced version had nuances of caramel, like a chocolate-covered caramel. These healthy drinks are so rich-tasting that you can enjoy them instead of dessert. T.G.I.F., have a great weekend and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Chocolate Banana Date Smoothie

2 cups non-dairy milk
4 frozen bananas, sliced
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup dates
Rum, Frangelico, Kahlua or other liqueur (to taste)

Place all ingredients in high powered blender and process until smooth. Note: the amount of liqueur you varies depending on the type of liqueur and how strong or subtle you like it. Start with 1 shot and go from there.

 

07 Aug 2015

Five Ways to Enjoy Eggplant Caponata

Caponata “How do I Caponata? Let me count the ways.”  I was inspired to write this post by an abundance of eggplants and because Bruce gave me a new camera lens as a birthday gift.

I’ve been inundated with eggplants this summer and wanted to come up with a recipe that could be squirreled away in the freezer. Eggplant is a rather bland vegetable and typically needs a lot of dressing up. Back in the day, we would make a killer eggplant parmasan. When you consider that the eggplant was dipped in egg, dredged in bread crumbs and locatelli, fried and finally layered with tomato sauce and mozzarella it’s no wonder it was killer. Don’t get me wrong; it was delicious; but it was also a lot of work and rough on the arteries.

Tired of grilled vegetables and ratatouille (neither of these freeze well, either), I dug through my old recipes for Eggplant Caponata. Caponata is a Sicilian dish consisting mainly of eggplant, celery and vinegar. It was originally meant as a side dish to seafood. The flavors are so powerful that I use it more as a relish to enhance other foods. My version also contains olives, capers, tomatoes, onions, pignoli nuts and raisins. Don’t let the ingredient list scare you; and if it does, just ask a loved one to help out. The end result is definitely worth it. Since the Caponata freezes nicely you might as well double the recipe so you an savor the flavor all year round.

So, here are just five ways to enjoy Caponata (and I get to try out the new lens). Make some Caponata and make it a Vegi-curious day!

Caponata on Crostini

CaponataStraight Up on Crostini

Caponata with Hummus

Caponata with Hummus

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caponata with Almond Cheese on Crostini

Caponata with Almond Cheese on Crostini

Caponata Hummus Hoagie

Caponata Hummus Hoagie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caponata Flat Bread Pizza

Caponata Flat Bread Pizza

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eggplant Caponata

Makes about 3 cups

  • 1 large eggplant, chopped
  • Salt (about 1 tablespoon)
  • Olive oil
  • ½ lb. celery, blanched and sliced into small pieces
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, blanched, peeled & chopped
  • Tomato paste (optional, as needed)
  • 4 oz. Spanish olives, roughly chopped
  • 3 oz. capers, rinsed
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons raisins

Place a colander inside a larger bowl. Add eggplant, sprinkle with salt and let sit for a few hours. Rinse with water then gently squeeze out excess liquid.

In large non-stick skillet, lightly coat bottom and sides with olive oil and heat over high heat. Add eggplant and brown lightly. (You may have to do this in small batches for even browning.) Remove to bowl.

Add a little more oil to skillet and saute celery until soft and lightly browned. Add to bowl containing the eggplant.

Re-coat skillet with oil. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add tomatoes, olives and capers and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes. You can add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste if you’d like more of a tomato taste. Add the eggplant and celery to skillet and continue cooking about 5 more minutes. Add vinegar and sugar and cook until vinegar evaporates. Remove from heat and stir in pine nuts and raisins.

Cool completely and store in refrigerator for about one week. You can also freeze the caponata for about 3 months, though you might want to stir in a little olive oil to refresh it.

 

05 Aug 2015

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