Sunday, January 31, 2016

Kırmızı Mercimek Çorbası (red lentil soup)

I love the versatile lentil: the variety, flavor and convenience that these quick cooking pulses offer are all things I approve of. This Turkish soup is my favorite way to prepare red lentils. Velvety smooth like a bisque, I make it with even more vegetables than typically called for. 

We ate this soup frequently in Turkey, watching snow fall outside the window, with chunks of fresh bread and glugs of olive oil. Good times! 

Enjoy this flavorful and elegant soup, made from the humblest of ingredients. 

Kırmızı Mercimek Çorbası (red lentil soup)
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil 
  • 1 onion
  • 1 head of garlic 
  • 3 small carrots 
  • 2 cups orange lentils
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 12 cups of water
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow squash or zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon of Aleppo pepper or paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
Chop the garlic and onions. Saute over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot until the onions are translucent and soft. Add the chopped carrots, celery, bell pepper and water. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes until soft. Now add the lentils, water, tomato paste, paprika and salt. Cook over medium to low heat for 20 to 30 minutes until everything is soft. Turn off the heat and allowed to cool down a few degrees for pureeing in batches in the blender or with your handheld blender (if you have a standing blender, use it, as you will get a smoother texture than with the handheld blender.) Serve with crusty bread and a big green salad.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

white beans with grilled kale and roasted tomatoes

Happy New Year!

A while back, I posted about a kale recipe that I cannot get enough of. Well, here is a great way to incorporate it into an amazing recipe that is loaded with flavor. This recipe takes some time, but is worth it and you should have leftovers. We enjoyed it on New Years, as a good luck dish (legumes & greens = CASH MONEY). I also served it at my December pop-up dinner and it was a huge hit with everyone. Worth it!

Yet another win for vegan deliciousness! Enjoy.

the ingredients


4 cups dry cannelini beans, soaked overnight
2 bay leaves
2 pounds kumato, cherry or grape tomatoes, washed and cut in half
2 pounds kale, grilled
2 purple onions, thinly sliced
1 head garlic, peeled and sliced
3 TBS olive oil
salt & black pepper
zest and juice of one lemon

In a large pot or crockpot, cook the beans over low heat in ample amounts of water with the two bay leaves until quite soft, approximately 2-3 hours.


Grill the kale using this technique

Roast the tomatoes. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, arrange the tomatoes in one layer, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & black pepper. Roast for about one hour, until the tomatoes are shriveled and reduced in size. This technique is great for bringing out natural sweetness and flavor in even a mediocre tomato. When done, remove from oven and set aside..

Using a knife, slice the stems from the kale and set aside the leaves. Slice up the stems into small pieces. In a heavy bottomed skillet, saute the onions over low heat in the olive oil until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and kale stems and continue to cook until all is soft and caramelized.

Slice the grilled kale leaves. It is now time to assemble the beans.

Strain the beans and discard the water, or save to make aquafaba.

In a heavy bottomed skillet, combine the beans, kale, caramelized onion, garlic and kale stems. Stir to combine and warm over medium to low heat. Add lemon zest & juice. Taste and adjust salt. Add cayenne pepper if you like spicy. Add the tomatoes and gently stir in. This should be bursting with umami and flavor.

Enjoy with bread, rice, in a tortilla or all on its own.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

irina's borscht

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, I had the pleasure of spending time with a friend who hails from Russia. When I asked him about delicious vegetarian recipes from his homeland, he mentioned his mother's borscht. He spoke of its richness and the deep color and said that there are two steps that make hers special.

Boiling potatoes to thicken the broth.
One is Zakvaska. To make it, grate 1/3 of the beets going into the soup, saute until very soft and dark with garlic and then add vinegar, bringing out and setting their color. This in turn is added to the soup towards the end of the cooking process and ensures the deep, vivid color of the final soup. The other step is to boil a couple of peeled potatoes into the broth, remove, mash and add back in to the soup. This ensures that the soup will have extra body and thickness.

I helped him make this amazing vegan soup one cold Northern California evening, and then ate as much as I was allowed, and then was sad to see it go. The second time I made this soup I doubled the recipe and not even that lasted very long. This soup makes me feel like I am fortifying my blood.

The lovely Pasha
Borscht is best served hot on a cold day with plain yogurt, sour cream, or with a vegan cashew-lemon-dill sour cream and crusty bread for dipping.


3 TBS olive oil
3 small onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, cut into matchsticks 1 inch long
3 large carrots, cut into matchsticks 1 inch long
4 small tomatoes, cut in half (or one can diced tomatoes)
2 lbs red beets, cut into matchsticks 1 inch long

7 cups vegetable broth (home made, or use bouillon cubes)
2 bay leaves
4 cloves
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1 TBS olive oil
1 lb red beets, grated
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup vinegar (ACV, white, or red)

This is a two pan process.

In a large soup pot, pour a few glugs of olive oil and heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes. Then add the carrots and celery and cook for another few minutes until soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the julienned beets and cook until the beets begin to soften.

Meanwhile, in a separate soup pot, put the broth (or water and bouillon cubes), cloves, pepper, bay leaves and potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are soft and easy to pierce. Remove the potatoes and mash with a fork (or use a ricer like I did), and set aside. Pour the broth into the beets, carrots and celery, and add the diced tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Now make the Zakvaska. While the soup is simmering, pour a bit more oil into the second pot and add the shredded beets with the remaining garlic. Cook over medium low heat until the beets are soft and dark in color, about 5--10 minutes. Once done, add the vinegar. Continue to heat and stir for a moment. This creates a delicious element that Pasha and I agree would be great as a stand alone condiment on bread or crackers.

Once the soup has been simmering for 20 or so minutes, add the mashed potatoes along with the shredded beet/vinegar blend. Stir and continue to simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Taste and salt.

Serve hot, with a dollop of yogurt, sour cream or vegan cashew sour cream. I am a lover of fresh herbs, so I felt it necessary to add a sprig or two to mine as garnish.

Finally, please check out these HOT COP oven mitts. Pasha & Ryan are men of high class & taste.

Monday, November 23, 2015

game changing grilled kale

I cannot stress enough how much I love this stuff.  Dress it up or eat it straight off the stems with your hands, oil dripping down your chin. I don't really want to eat kale any other way these days. This recipe's chewy, smoky, juiciness satisfies me at a very primal level.

Plan on one bunch of kale per person. You'll want to fire up your barbecue for this one.


1 bunch of kale (curly is awesome but any will work)
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup oil (avocado, sunflower, olive are my faves)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 lemon

Wash, drain and place the kale in a large bowl. In a blender, blend the garlic, oil, pepper and salt together. Pour over the kale and toss to coat.

Over low heat, place the kale leaves on the grill. Cook for a couple of minutes and flip, and cook for a couple of more minutes on the other side, until the leaves are soft and edges starting to char just a little bit. Don't over-grill, as the burnt ones aren't as awesome to eat.

Remove from the grill. Squeeze lemon juice over leaves and go to town.

Another way to serve is to chop the leaves off the stems and make a salad.
This one is quite amazing.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

kelewele bites

photo by kelly bone

My current assignment is to come up with creative and attractive African inspired appetizers for an event. The first thing that came to mind was kelewele (pronounced kelly-welly), a dish that I know and love from years living in Ghana, West Africa.

West African plantains are the best I've ever had. They're spiked with ginger, garlic, hot pepper and salt. In Ghana they're deep fried but I like to coat and roast. If you cut them into skinny little discs and stack them up on a toothpick they are transformed from humble nighttime street snack to high class cocktail party item.

  • 3 lbs ripe sweet plantains (skin black if possible) sliced into 1/8"-1/4" rounds
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil (or other oil)
  • 4 ounces fresh ginger
  • 3 ounces fresh garlic
  • 1-2 habanero peppers
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the plantains in a mixing bowl. In a blender, combine oil, ginger, garlic, peppers and salt. Blend until smooth, and then pour over the plantains, stirring to coat well. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Spread plantains on a parchment lined baking sheet (or two) in an even layer. Roast for about 20 minutes, until edges begin to caramelize. Using a spatula, flip them and continue to roast until they are golden brown and caramelized. Stir once or twice during the process to prevent the outer pieces from burning. 

Once cooked, remove from oven. These are best hot but still taste good even as they cool down. If you are serving them as an appetizer, spike three to a toothpick and arrange on a plate with a dusting of sea salt, garlic chives and aleppo pepper.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

vegan mushroom cioppino

Hi, I'm back! I've been cheffing and managing for a vegetarian restaurant these past two years, and my musings have been posted elsewhere on the web. 

Speaking of musings, I am going to keep my future posts short and sweet. I usually scroll right down to the bottom of most food blogs, skipping the novel that precedes the recipe. I find all that writing to be superfluous. In addition, in writing less words, the likelihood of my sharing recipes and other useful information will be greater.

So, without further ado, I would like to share with you the recipe for this vegan mushroom cioppino, a standout soup that was originally created in the late 1800s by Italian fishermen in San Francisco. This version swaps oyster and trumpet mushrooms out for the seafood. I am a big fan of my food processor and used the slicing attachment for the leeks, trumpet mushrooms, garlic, fennel, celery and tomatoes. I suggest you do the same if you have the luxury, its a real time saver.

Omnivores and vegetarians alike go bonkers for this amazing vegan soup, which was in regular rotation at the caffe. Enjoy!

the ingredients

Makes about 12 servings (can easily be halved)
  • 1 pound royal trumpet mushrooms, ends removed and sliced into bite sized pieces.
  • 1 pound oyster mushrooms, ends removed and torn into bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 stalks leeks, tough green ends removed, rinsed & thinly sliced (see bottom pic)
  • 18 cloves sliced garlic
  • 2 cups fennel, sliced thin
  • 1 bunch celery, sliced thin
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 vegetarian bouillon cube
  • 2 1/2 lbs chopped tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Fresh oregano, chopped

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil until it ripples. Add the leeks, celery and garlic, and brown for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and continue to brown (another 3 to 5 minutes)
Stir in the fennel, then the wine. Let the wine come to a boil, then simmer for 2 minutes.
Add the water and bouillon cube, tomatoes, salt, pepper, chili flakes and Old Bay. Simmer for 30 minutes on low until the mushrooms are tender and the fennel is soft. Remove from heat and add a small handful of chopped fresh oregano. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Ladle into bowls. Drizzle with olive oil and serve with sourdough bread

Quick tip for cleaning leeks I learned from David Lebovitz: slice lengthwise up to the root,
making them very easy to rinse off. Then slice as needed.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

karelian pies: vegan, two ways

Unless you are Finnish, you are probably asking, "what is a Karelian Pie?" I never knew until I went there and had them for breakfast multiple times. Eaten warm, and slathered with not-so-vegan egg butter, these savory rye and rice pastries are so good. In Finland, I saw them in one format: plain. Which is absolutely delicious and when I make them now, I do half plain and half in some other flavor. Because I am not Finnish, I guess it's ok for me to riff on the original. If you are a Finnish investor and would like me to come and live in Helsinki, and run a Karelian pie bakery that isn't afraid to take these classics to a new level, please contact me and we can talk.

I have broken from tradition here in two ways. In Finland, Karelian Pies are filled with a porridge of milk, salt and short grain rice. The first time I made these, I made two different kinds, one with cow's milk and one batch with coconut milk. I am not sure why, but it was virtually impossible to tell which one was which. This is good news for vegans and people avoiding dairy. The other liberty I took was to stir boiled, pureed carrots and a bit of oil tempered with cumin seeds in to half of the finished rice porridge before stuffing the pastries. This resulted in a creamy, slightly sweet cumin laced pie, which I have to say I like even more than the original. One thing I have learned about Karelian Pies: the flavor must be simple and pure so as not to overpower the subtle flavor of the rye flour crust. 

A word on rye, gluten and other ancient grains. I have been floating on a sea of information and observation for years now, trying to decipher and filter out what works for me in regards to what I eat, and how it makes me feel, both psychologically and physiologically. The island I have landed on in recent months is one that I like, and think I will stay here for a while. I do not have celiac disease. And I may or may not have a sensitivity to gluten, as I sometimes notice if I eat too much wheat, or believe what my allergy blood test tells me. But I often wonder if it is not just the super-sized wheat mutant monster that scientists have created to satiate America's gluten addiction that some of us are reacting to? Perhaps the more delicate, sensitive gluten found in ancient, unadulterated grains such as rye, spelt, kamut and barley are more digestible? I am no scientist, and I am not going to cross-reference my readings here. But this is where I am at, and I have been baking a lot using these wheat alternatives, which have gluten, but my body seems to know what to do with. I was so healthy and happy in Finland, as if my system was finally in its nutritional homeland. Don't even get me started on the bread there. The rye bread alone was worth the trip.

Back to Karelian Pies. This is a food you are unlikely to see outside of Finland very often. Luckily, they freeze well, and hold together well enough to pop into the toaster or toaster oven for a quick breakfast. Although whenever we make them here, they don't make it to the freezer at all. 

Karelian Pies are typically eaten with egg butter (I love egg butter). It is basically hard boiled eggs mashed up with room temperature butter, and this is the part of the puzzle that I haven't tackled for the vegans, as I do eat eggs. If you eat eggs but not dairy, like my man, you can make the egg butter with coconut oil and it is just as good as the one made with butter.

This is one of those cooking projects, like tamales, that is more fun done with friends and wine and when you have time to cook. Make lots, share with everyone, eat a bunch, and hopefully you'll even have enough left over to freeze.

If you are inspired to make some other flavor, please share...these things are ripe for experimentation!

Here is a good recipe for traditional Karelian Pies, and the one that I adapted from.

Vegan Karelian Pies 
(makes 40 pies)
600ml water
3 14oz cans coconut milk (minus 1/4 cup)
2 cans water
370 g abborio or other short grain rice
1 tsp salt

(for carrot version)
6 large carrots, peeled & chopped
2 Tablespoons coconut oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds

600ml water
600-700 g rye flour
pinch of salt

50g coconut oil
1/4 cup of coconut milk
600 ml water
3-4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cooled
100g soft butter or coconut oil
Make the porridge. Boil the water in a large pan. Add the rice and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the coconut milk and bring to a soft boil. Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, until it is a thick, creamy porridge. Add salt and let cool completely.

Make the carrot-cumin element. Steam or boil carrots until soft. Puree in blender. In a small pan, heat the coconut oil until it spatters when you drop a single cumin seed in there. Once ready, temper the oil with the remaining cumin seeds, allowing them to pop, toast and spatter for about 15 seconds. Remove from heat, stir into the carrot mixture. Divide the rice porridge in half, and add the carrot cumin mixture. You will now have two flavors of Karelian Pie!

Make the rye dough. Combine water, salt and 500 grams rye flour in a bowl. Continue to add flour until the dough can be kneaded and handled. Cut the dough into quarters, and then roll each quarter into a cylinder.  Divide each cylinder of dough into ten equal portions and flatten each portion to make a round disk. Cover the disks with cling wrap to avoid drying. 

Make the pies. Roll one disk at a time into a thin (2-3mm thick) oval, spread couple of tablespoons of porridge onto the disk, and wet the edges of the disk with water using your finger. Pinch the sides together around the disk, creating a little basket using your thumb and index finger. 

Bake the pies. Place the pies on baking trays lined with parchment paper and bake in a preheated oven (425F) for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are slightly browned.

Heat coconut oil, coconut milk and water in a saucepan. Dip each pie in the hot mixture to soften. Place on drying rack for 5-10 minutes so the milk does not make the bottoms soggy. 

Use a fork to mix the eggs with soft butter and serve the pies topped with this mixture. These pies can be frozen (minus the egg butter).